During National Infant Immunization Week, April 21-28, 2012, the North Dakota Department of Health would like to remind parents of the importance of vaccinations for their children.
National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance that emphasizes the need to fully immunize children 24 months and younger against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases. Not only does timely immunization protect small children, but it also protects the community around them including those who cannot be vaccinated.
“Immunization is a shared responsibility,” said Abbi Pierce, immunization surveillance coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health. “Families, health-care professionals and public health officials must all work together to ensure that children are receiving the proper vaccinations at the proper times to help protect the entire community.”
The importance of vaccinations is highlighted by the recent rise in pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the United States and ongoing outbreaks in numerous states. Since the beginning of the year, 30 cases of pertussis have been reported to the North Dakota Department of Health. The cases are from nine different North Dakota counties: Benson, Burleigh, Cass, Cavalier, Morton, Rolette, Sioux, Ward and Williams County.
“Pertussis often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in adolescents and adults but can be very serious if passed to infants or those with serious health conditions,” said Pierce. “It’s important for both children and adults to be properly immunized against pertussis in order to protect those most at risk.”
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a contagious disease that lasts for many weeks or months and can cause severe coughing with a “whooping” sound or coughing that leads to vomiting. The disease can be life threatening for infants and is usually spread by adults to infants. Generally, the illness is less severe in those who are vaccinated.
Pertussis is characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
• Prolonged cough
• Long spells of coughing with spasms
• Coughing with a whooping sound
• Coughing that leads to gagging or vomiting
One of the most important preventive measures is vaccination against pertussis. Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) should be administered routinely to infants at 2, 4, 6 and 15 to 18 months of age and a booster dose of DTaP should be given at 4 to 6 years of age. DTaP is required to attend a school or child-care setting.
Pertussis outbreaks highlight the need for pertussis vaccination in adults and adolescents as well as children. Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) is routinely recommended for adolescents age 11 to 12 years of age. Tdap is required to be administered to all adolescents entering middle school. Adolescents 13 to 18 years of age and adults are also recommended to receive a dose of Tdap.
For more information about National Infant Immunization Week or pertussis, contact Abbi Pierce, North Dakota Department of Health at 1.800.472.2180, or visit our website at www.ndhealth.gov/immunize, or contact Fargo Cass Public Health at 241-1360, or visit www.cityoffargo.com/health and click on Immunizations.