June 30, 2005

Experts advise whooping cough booster for U.S teens

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. teens should get a booster shotof the whooping cough vaccine to protect them from waningimmunity and to battle a resurgence of the sometimes deadlydisease, vaccine advisers recommended on Thursday.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, whichmakes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention, said the booster shot should be added to thescheduled extra dose of tetanus and diphtheria that adolescentsare supposed to receive.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highlycontagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system markedby severe coughing spells and, often, a "whoop" sound whenpatients inhale. It can kill infants and young children.

Whooping cough vaccines are routine for U.S. children butthere is evidence that immunity to the disease wanes byadolescence, in part because pertussis is on the increase inthe United States and other countries.

"We have had a 63 percent increase in pertussis since2003," said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt UniversityMedical School in Nashville and a spokesman for the NationalFoundation for Infectious Diseases.

"That's just in reported cases and that seems to be onlythe tip of the iceberg," he said.

Supporters of teen vaccination hope booster shots willreduce infections and keep the disease from spreading toinfants.

Two companies -- GlaxoSmithKline Plc. and Sanofi-AventisGroup -- have U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approvedboosters.

The immunization advisory committee did not make arecommendation on vaccinating adults with a whooping coughbooster shot.

Dr. Richard Clover, dean of the School of Public Health atthe University of Louisville in Kentucky and a spokesman forthe American Academy of Family Physicians, said the committeewill take the matter up again in October.

"The committee needed some more time to decide," Cloversaid in a telephone interview from the panel meeting inAtlanta.

U.S. whooping cough cases peaked in the 1930s at more than250,000 in one year. Pertussis immunizations for infants andchildren up to age 7 were introduced in the 1940s, drivingnumbers down.

There has been a resurgence since a safer but less potentvaccine was introduced in 1991 with 18,957 pertussis casesreported in 2004, up from 10,670 in 2003, the CDC said.Thirteen children died in the United States in 2003 frompertussis.

Caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis, whoopingcough infects up to 90 of susceptible people who live in thesame home as a patient.

Worldwide, it causes 20 million to 40 million cases ofwhooping cough and kills up to 400,000 people a year, the WorldHealth Organization says.