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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Whooping cough: ACIP work group may recommend pertussis booster shots for health care workers

Public health advisors are considering additional pertussis booster shot recommendations for health care workers who treat vulnerable patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend a one-time dose of the Tdap vaccine for health care workers. A working group of CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is considering additional booster shots of Tdap for health workers, especially those who work with infants who are at greatest risk of pertussis infection and severe disease.

Pertussis immunity wanes even one year after immunization with Tdap, so routine re-immunization of all adults is not generally cost-effective, ACIP concluded.

Less than half of health care workers have received Tdap, says Mark Sawyer, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California – San Diego and chair of the ACIP workgroup on pertussis vaccines.

There’s no “systematic data” on transmission of pertussis from health care workers to patients, says Sawyer. “I have heard anecdotal reports of transmission from an infectious health care worker to patients. We don’t really know what the overall frequency is.”

The CDC is focused on preventing pertussis in infants by vaccinating people who have contact with babies as well as vaccinating pregnant women. More than 48,000 pertussis cases were reported in 2012, the highest number since 1955. Washington, Vermont and Colorado reported epidemic levels of pertussis. The greatest incidence was among infants less than one year of age.

--Michele Marill