Newly available pertussis booster vaccines could spell end of the disease

LETTER — Posted Aug. 15, 2005

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Regarding "Pertussis a growing grown-up problem" (Article, June 13): Your article is an important call to action to physicians to first appropriately diagnose adult pertussis and then report cases to local public health departments. Still, there was a missing piece in the fight against pertussis, a tool for prevention in anyone older than 7 years.

Shortly before your article was published, the Food and Drug Administration approved licensure of the first pertussis booster vaccine for both adults and adolescents, Adacel.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration approved Boostrix for adolescents 10 to 18 years of age.

The FDA licensure of an adult pertussis vaccine comes not a minute too soon. Pertussis in adults is not uncommon.

A 2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reported that in cases where the source of the disease was identifiable, adults were responsible for more than half of pertussis cases in infants, with parents the source for 47% and grandparents for 8% of cases.

Pertussis in adults can lead to hospitalization and up to 10 days of missed work; in infants and young children, the toll can be fatal.

As your article points out, public health officials believe a vaccine for adults ultimately could mean the end of pertussis.

That is why it is important for physicians to encourage both their adult and adolescent patients without contraindications to get vaccinated against pertussis.

Health care workers, child care workers and parents should be among the first adults to receive the new booster vaccine, as they most commonly come into contact with vulnerable infants and young children. But it is also important that adults and teenagers protect themselves from this disease.

Through proper notice and timely action by physicians and other members of the medical community, we may hope to break the cycle of pertussis transmission and reverse the trend of this growing public health crisis.

Donald M. Poretz, MD, president, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Annandale, Va.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/08/15/edlt0815.htm.

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