Doctor: New pertussis booster requirement benefits middle school - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Doctor: New pertussis booster requirement benefits middle schoolers, infants

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

A new law will require all seventh grade students in Iowa to get vaccinated for pertussis, or whooping cough, for the 2013-14 school year.

The law is effective immediately, and requires students born after Sept. 15, 2000, to get a booster shot. Iowa health officials say the disease runs in cycles, and the staggering numbers lately made changes were necessary.

"In 2012, we had 1,647 cases that occurred, a 417 percent increase over the same average of the last five years," said Don Callaghan, bureau chief for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

You might be wondering why you should vaccinate seventh graders? It's not really for their benefit.

"Not so much for the seventh graders, but for their little brothers and sisters," said Dr. Ray Sturdevant, a pediatrician at Prairie Pediatrics in Sioux City.

"It's a very contagious disease, very easily spread by coughing, sneezing," said Lori Baldwin, a public health nurse at Siouxland District Health.

Baldwin says many patients don't even know they have whooping cough.

"Once you get it, it kind of mimics the common cold at first," said Baldwin. "But after that, then you have that lingering cough that just lasts for more than two weeks, you can't get rid of it."

Sturdevant has been a pediatrician for nearly 40 years. He says he's rarely had patients coming in to his office complaining about whooping cough.

"As you get older, you don't become very sick from whooping cough. You'll get a cough and so forth," said Sturdevant. "It's a much milder disorder than with little kids."

He says researchers found that most young people were getting vaccinated early, but not later. So, they were, in effect, becoming carriers instead.

"A person who has the disorder may still have the symptoms, even though the organisms are killed," said Sturdevant.

Now, he says the challenge is stopping the disease before it spreads to others.

"Suppression of the active diseases is really what we're looking for," said Sturdevant. "Because in the kids that are little and at significant risk of respiratory failure from the disease."

So, Baldwin says, to be proactive, in a year where cases have skyrocketed. Plus, she says it's better to get your shots now.

"Don't wait until August to get it and expect everybody to have enough vaccine on hand to get them all immunized at one time," said Baldwin.

Medical officials recommend getting that tetanus vaccine every ten years, as an adult. Today, most tetanus vaccinations include diphtheria and pertussis.

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