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Several factors increase pertussis-related infant death

Infant deaths due pertussis, also known as whopping cough, could be further reduced by focusing on certain risk factors.

Several factors increase pertussis-related infant death

Infant deaths due pertussis, also known as whopping cough, could be further reduced by focusing on certain risk factors. The highest rates of pertussis deaths occur in infants younger than 12 months old who are too young to be vaccinated. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, which can lead to pneumonia, middle ear infection, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, dehydration, seizures and even death. Researchers from America used the U.S. Multiple Cause-of-Death and Linked Birth/Infant Death databases for 1999 to 2004 to examine infant mortality rate caused by pertussis. They also obtained records of infants with pertussis listed as a cause of death and of surviving infants to explore the possible causes or common features of the deaths. Infant and maternal characteristics present at the time of birth for babies who died with pertussis were compared with those of surviving babies. It was found that 91 infants died before 7 months of age and 53 infants' deaths occurred in the infants younger than 2 months of age. Also, an independent association was found between infant deaths from pertussis and birth-weight below 2500 grams, female sex, an Apgar score below 8 and a mother with less than 12 years of education. The mortality rate among Hispanic infants less than 2 months of age was 3 times greater than non-Hispanic infants of the same age. Although the findings do not suggest a causal relationship between specific infant or maternal characteristics and infant pertussis-related deaths, these indicators of high risk should be given consideration when implementing strategies to prevent pertussis and infant pertussis deaths, the researchers suggested. They advise that ensuring pertussis booster vaccination of adults and adolescents in close contact with an infant is warranted to prevent transmission of pertussis to vulnerable infants, particularly infants too young to be immunized.
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal
March 2009
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