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Health Team

Contagious cough is spread from child to child

Posted November 16, 2010 5:31 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2010 6:16 p.m. EST

Health officials dealing with whooping cough (pertussis) outbreaks across the country have issued reminders for both children and adults to get vaccinated against the illness.

"There are current epidemics in many parts of the United States," said Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University.

Vaccination is especially important for children, a new study shows.

Mathematicians at the University of Michigan analyzed data from Europe to figure out how whooping cough spreads. They found that children are much more likely to catch the illness from another child, not an adult.

"Although we've known for a long time that kids have contact with other kids, we didn't really realize how intense that contact is," said researcher Aaron King, of the University of Michigan.

Children should get 5 doses of DTaP vaccine (diptheria, tetanus and pertussis), one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, 4 to 6 years. DTaP may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Children with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. But children who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting DTaP vaccine.

"If you can get parents to vaccinate their kids at a very early age, then we can control this disease," King said.

Health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated against whooping cough, especially older adults whose childhood vaccine may have worn off.