Dec 30, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

California is suffering through the worst outbreak of pertussis (whopping cough) in almost 70 years. While at the same time, the National Hockey League’s season is in jeopardy as 20 players so far have tested positive for mumps. Both illnesses are scary, and could have serious complications. Both are also preventable. “Pertussis and mumps can be prevented by vaccines,” says Andrew Pavia, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases for University of Utah Health. “The most important thing is to make sure you and your family are up to date on all vaccines.”

The vaccine for pertussis is given as part of dTAP or TdAP shots during the childhood vaccine schedule at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months, with three other boosters later in life. Skipping those boosters or deciding not to do the vaccines at all can put people at risk. But while adults may be the ones making those decisions about vaccinations, it is the youngest children who suffer the most. “For pertussis, the most severe complications occur in infants under 4 months who have not had enough vaccine to be protected,” says Pavia. “Although pertussis in adults can be extremely unpleasant. Pertussis during pregnancy can be severe. Pregnant women should get a TdAP booster with each pregnancy, for their own protection but more importantly, to protect their baby until the vaccines take effect at about 6 months of age.”

“Mumps in contrast is much more likely to cause serious complications in adults than in children,” says Pavia. “These can include meningitis, encephalitis, pancreatitis, orchitis (painful inflammation of the testicles), oophoritis (painful inflammation of the ovaries) as well as other neurologic complications. Orchitis and oophoritis due to mumps can result in infertility.” The mumps vaccine is given as part of the MMR vaccine in childhood. However, immunity can decrease over the years, especially in people who did not get two doses in their early years. It is recommended that people get a “booster” MMR vaccine in their young adult years to extend their immunity.

The bottom line is that both mumps and pertussis are preventable. Despite that, these outbreaks are happening more often. “Pertussis outbreaks have become quite common,” says Pavia. “And a number of mumps outbreaks have been on college campuses, but in others have involved the Chicago Board of Trade.”

Libby Mitchell

Libby Mitchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @UUHCLibby

whooping cough mumps vaccination

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