Santa Fe | 8 May 2012

The New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) reports that a 2-month old infant living in San Miguel County died late last week from whooping cough, also known as pertussis. This is the first pertussis-related infant death in New Mexico since 2005.

“We send our most sincere condolences to the infant’s family,” said DOH Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Catherine Torres. “Since infants cannot begin to receive their DTaP vaccine against pertussis until they are 2 months old and are not considered protected against the infection until receiving their 3rd dose at 6 months of age, it is imperative that all those individuals coming in contact with a newborn is up-to-date on their pertussis vaccine.” The infant in this case had received DTaP at the regularly scheduled 2 month well child check.

Pertussis is a serious, highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection. Initial pertussis symptoms in older children and adults are similar to those of a cold, with runny nose, sneezing and mild cough. Over the course of a few days, the cough will usually worsen and become severe. Sometimes the cough will be followed by coughing spasms, a whooping sound or vomiting. Symptoms in infants may be different. Infants may have gagging, gasping, decreased breathing, little or no cough and may turn blue.

Infants who contract pertussis are much more likely to be hospitalized, develop complications and die from the disease. The key to preventing whooping cough cases in infants is to ensure that all young children, older children, and adults are vaccinated against pertussis.

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends that all New Mexicans receive the following pertussis vaccines:

• a primary series of childhood pertussis vaccine, called DTaP, at 2, 4, 6 and 15-18 months of age;

• a booster dose of DTaP prior to school entry at 4 to 6 years of age;

• a booster dose of Tdap at entry to middle school;

• a Tdap booster as a teen or adult if one was not given at entry to middle school;

• for pregnant women, a Tdap after the 20th week of pregnancy if the woman has not received one in the past;

• a Tdap booster for anyone who is caring for or spending time with an infant and has not received one in the past, including people over age 65.

Pertussis is a preventable illness that has been on the rise nationally. New Mexico experienced more pertussis cases in 2011 than in any year since the 1980s. A community-wide outbreak in Bernalillo County last year resulted in 190 confirmed and probable cases. Since the beginning of 2012, New Mexico has identified 110 cases, including 13 infant cases and 8 infant hospitalizations. The majority of the cases in 2012 have occurred in Bernalillo and Valencia Counties.

For more information on vaccine recommendations or to receive information on how to get a vaccine visit the New Mexico Immunization Program website at call (866) 681-5872.

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