Until recently, it was believed that childhood immunizations against pertussis (whooping cough) conferred lifelong immunity. We now know that pertussis immunity wanes over time and, according to the CDC, the overall incidence has been increasing since 2007. Another contributing factor is parental vaccine refusal. While this rate of refusal in the U.S. remains low, it has increased over the past two decades – and a 2009 study shows these children are 23 times more likely to develop pertussis than kids who are immunized.
Infants under one year of age have the highest reported rate of pertussis – and this vulnerable population is at greatest risk for severe complications and death, notes Cooper Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Debrah Meislich, MD. These complications include dehydration, hypoxia/anoxia, brain hemorrhage, cardiac arrest, pulmonary hypertension, seizure, glucose imbalance and secondary bacterial pneumonia.
“The younger the patient, the more likely they’ll get into trouble with apnea or respiratory distress and need intubation or respiratory support,” says Cooper Pediatric Critical Care Intensivist Monika Gupta, MD.
The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper offers the region’s most sophisticated resources for children requiring this level of care, along with advanced diagnostic capabilities and South Jersey’s only fellowship-trained pediatric radiologists to help evaluate secondary lung infections. Advanced treatment capabilities include exchange transfusion and plasmapheresis, plus access to the full range of Cooper’s pediatric subspecialists.
When transfer to the PICU is warranted, a single call to the Cooper Transfer Center – staffed 24/7 by a specially trained nurse coordinator – streamlines the process, and an experienced team of critical care specialists provides ongoing monitoring during ground or air transport.