The state on Monday reported the first infant death this year from pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.
The 2-month-old child was from Forsyth County, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Whooping cough is highly contagious and spread usually by coughing or sneezing in close contact. It can be serious at any age, but it is life-threatening in newborns and infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated, state health officials said. Many infants who get whooping cough are infected by caregivers who may not know they have the disease.
Officials are strongly urging parents to take precautions to safeguard their children against whooping cough. Children should have current vaccinations and boosters, and adults who interact with children also should be immunized.
“Babies and young children are not fully immunized until they have finished a series of vaccinations, so their only protection against whooping cough is the people around them,” State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald said. “Anyone who lives with or will be around a baby should be vaccinated.”
DHSS is offering Tdap, a vaccine against pertussis, at no cost for residents ages 7 and older. Health care providers may charge an administration fee.
The vaccine is available through the North Carolina Immunization Network, which includes private health care providers and local health departments.
Tdap is highly recommended for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant; anyone in close contact with infants under 12 months old; and anyone with a chronic respiratory illness.