Experts: Adults should also be vaccinated against pertussis

Experts: Adults should also be vaccinated against pertussis

Epidemiologists stress that in recent years we have been observing the return of infectious diseases, which for years have been considered to be under control or eradicated. One of them is pertussis, and its incidence has also been on the rise in Poland. This is confirmed by the data of the National Institute of Hygiene – in 2016, there were as many as 6,856 cases of the disease, while in 2017 there were slightly fewer – 3,034 [1]. Most vulnerable to the disease are young people between the ages of 10 and 14, adults and the elderly. According to experts, the most effective preventive measure continue to be vaccinations – mandatory for children, but also those recommended for adults who should take a booster dose every 10 years.

Many of us associate pertussis prevention with vaccinations given in the first months of the child's life or to school-aged children, but it is also very important to continue protecting yourself against this disease in adulthood. It is precisely the diminishing resistance to vaccination that is the cause of the increasingly growing number of adults suffering from pertussis – a disease, which until recently has been mainly classified as a childhood illness.

Agnieszka Motyl, MD, family medicine specialist and epidemiologist at Medicover Poland

Infected adults put children at risk

Pertussis is very infectious. The risk of developing pertussis by a non-immune person after having contact with an infected patient reaches 80%. Experts stress that just being in the vicinity of a sick person poses a risk of infection, because the infection is spread by droplets during coughing, sneezing or through direct contact with the patient. In young adults and the elderly, the disease may persist for up to 26 weeks, during which time it may spread to newborns and infants for whom pertussis is particularly dangerous. At such a young age the disease may cause much more serious apnoea, seizures, or hypoxia of the brain, and more often may result in permanent neurological consequences.

Who should consider getting vaccinated?

Very often we believe that a vaccine received once will protect us throughout our life. Meanwhile, postvaccinal immunity is estimated to last an average of 6-12 years. Therefore, for infectious diseases such as pertussis, it is necessary to give a booster dose of the vaccine every 10 years. This causes the number of antibodies to increase again to a similar level as the one after the primary course of vaccination.

Agnieszka Motyl, MD, family medicine specialist and epidemiologist at Medicover Poland

Due to the high risk of small children being infected, people who are particularly advised to receive a booster dose of pertussis vaccine include:
  • women who are or are planning to become pregnant and their partners,
  • parents, grandparents and other close family members who look after young children,
  • people working in children's clubs, nurseries, kindergartens, orphanages, as well as other adults who take care of children,
  • medical staff.

Vaccinating people from the immediate environment of a non-immune child is part of the so-called cocoon strategy.

We should remember that there are children living among us who cannot be vaccinated for pertussis due to their age, or who have not received all the doses. There are also children who cannot be vaccinated against pertussis due to coexisting diseases, hence vaccinating adults helps protect them against infections.

Agnieszka Motyl, MD, family medicine specialist and epidemiologist at Medicover Poland

Being an adult is not an excuse to avoid vaccinations

The Chief Sanitary Inspectorate stresses the importance of protective vaccination among adults saying that achieving adulthood does not exempt one from taking preventive vaccination measures. Protective vaccinations help us take care of our health, as well as the health of the people around us. This is extremely important in the case of infectious diseases such as pertussis. Riding on crowded public transport, queueing in shops, or working alongside large groups of people can potentially help spread the disease. Prevention is particularly important in the light of the data of the National Institute of Hygiene, which stresses that the increasing number of pertussis cases shows that it is not a disease of the past. So it is advisable to take preventive measures early on and consider protective vaccination.
[1] Data of the National Institute of Hygiene, http://szczepienia.pzh.gov.pl/szczepionki/krztusiec/3/
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