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Minor shift in vaccine schedule has potential to reduce infant illness, death
Date:11/2/2008

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A new study by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University suggests that protecting infants from a common, highly contagious and even deadly disease may be as easy as administering a routine vaccine two weeks earlier than it is typically given.

The shift has the potential to prevent at least 1,236 cases of pertussis, 898 hospitalizations and seven deaths attributable to pertussis each year in the United States, said Timothy R. Peters, M.D., co-lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Brenner Children's Hospital, which is part of Wake Forest Baptist.

"Rates of pertussis, which can be life-threatening in young infants, are increasing," Peters said. "Pertussis vaccine has been highly effective in defending children against this disease, and we find that modest adjustments in the timing of vaccine administration may offer enhanced protection to very young infants who are especially susceptible to severe disease."

The study appears in the November issue of Pediatrics.

Pertussis, commonly known as "whooping cough" or "the 100-day cough," is a disease marked by severe coughing. Young infants are at the highest risk for pertussis-related complications, including pneumonia, seizures, brain swelling and even death. Among infants in the United States, the incidence of pertussis peaks at 1 month of age and progressively decreases over the next year. Pneumonia is the most common complication and cause of infant pertussis-related deaths and, in 2003 13 children died from pertussis. Most deaths occur among unvaccinated children or infants too young to be vaccinated.

While there is no lifelong protection against whooping cough, immunization is the best preventative measure. Current recommendations suggest five doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, with booster doses at 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6
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Contact: Jessica Guenzel
jguenzel@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3487
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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