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Pertussis, a Disease Whose Time Has Come

What Can Be Done to Control the Problem?

Tan, Tina Q., MD; Gerbie, Melvin V., MD

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31829a2c70
Current Commentary

In the United States, major epidemics of pertussis or whooping cough have occurred in the last 5 years making this disease a major public health issue. The adolescent and adult populations are the major transmitters of disease to the community. However, these epidemics have had the greatest effect on the young infant population resulting in high rates of hospitalizations and complications and accounting for 100% of the mortality. Optimization of vaccine recommendations is a strategy that is critically important as a method to control the disease burden and decrease the transmission of disease to the young infant population. Immunization that is focused on the close contacts of these young infants (the cocoon strategy) is felt to be one of the main cornerstones to vaccine optimization with the immunization of pregnant women being critical. Transmission studies have shown that adolescent and adult close contacts, especially new mothers, are the source of disease transmission to their young infants in more than 50% of the cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommend that the tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis booster vaccine be given to pregnant women during each pregnancy between 27 weeks and 36 weeks of gestation to protect their infant against pertussis disease.

Obstetrician–gynecologists will play a critical role in decreasing pertussis disease burden and transmission through immunization of pregnant women.

Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Corresponding author: Tina Q. Tan, MD, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, 225 E. Chicago Avenue, Box 20, Chicago, IL 60611; e-mail: or

Financial Disclosure Dr. Tan is a member of the vaccine advisory boards and speaker's bureaus for Sanofi Pasteur and Glaxo Smith Kline. Dr. Gerbie is a member of the speaker's bureau for Sanofi Pasteur.

© 2013 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.