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Unvaccinated people with whooping cough may be spreading it to those with vaccinations

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – For new mother Brynn Turner, getting her 3-month-old daughter Mabry vaccinated just makes sense.

“A lot of people with the anti-vax movements are stopping routine vaccinations for infants and young children that they should be getting,” she said. “One of them including the whooping cough vaccine.”

Being a registered nurse also helps Turner, since she’s seen firsthand the effects of the contagious respiratory disease.

“Yeah, unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more cases of whooping cough,” said Dr. Kristen Mennemeier. “It starts out as a mild cold. It can have low-grade fevers or no fevers at all. But over the course of the next two to four weeks, the cough worsens in frequency.”

Mennemeier is a pediatrician in west St. Louis County who has noticed a persistent problem on the rise in infants – pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough. The contagious respiratory disease, caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, is on the rise nationwide and in the St. Louis area.

“So, it is frustrating for us that some patients choose not to vaccinate,” Mennemeier said. “We can’t encourage people enough that it is the best choice for your child to vaccinate them.”

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending pregnant women get both the flu and whooping cough shots, adding only about 35 percent of American women are getting both vaccinations.

But even if you’ve had the vaccination for whooping cough, there is still the chance that the cough can occur, thanks to others not taking part in the herd immunity.

“I think immunity over time, more recent studies are showing the vaccine can wear off, which is why we’re starting to see some cases in children and adults who have been vaccinated,” Mennemeier said.

Dr. Mennemeier said she recommends vaccines and a booster dose of whooping cough vaccination.

“A lot of times, parents will videotape their child while they’re sleeping with whooping cough and you can see they’re coughing so hard,” Turner said. “They’re retracting around their ribs near their clavicle and they’re in so much distress that they can hardly breathe, then they’ll cough so hard they’ll vomit. It’s so disheartening that we have to see children this sick sometimes.”

"To me, it’s like, why not give yourself the best opportunity to not have detrimental consequences to something that is preventable? It’s a no brainer to me.”

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