Whooping cough, the nearly forgotten disease of yesteryear, strikes again, with rising incidence worldwide.
One explanation for this is the waning vaccine efficacy, after five to 10 years of receipt.
This illness infects both adolescents and adults. The affected individual may not show any symptoms and may, in turn, transmit the disease to the very young (less than six months old). These babies have not completed their full vaccination schedule and are the weakest in our population.
The protection against whooping cough for newborns begins before birth, with the vaccination of their pregnant mothers ("Can protection against whooping cough start in the womb?" by Madam Sarah Rebecca Ang; Forum Online, Aug 3).
Obstetric guidelines in developed countries strongly recommend pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination in the third trimester.
In the spirit of "cocooning" newborns, this vaccination should be extended to all caregivers, including the domestic helper. The source of pertussis is invariably caregivers.
Besides being vaccinated against whooping cough, pregnant mothers should also vaccinate themselves against influenza.
Babies less than six months old who are infected with influenza have the highest risk of hospitalisation, and a one in 10,000 risk of encephalitis (brain infection).
Vaccination gives babies an upper hand and protection before they are born.
If you are pregnant, the best you can give to your unborn child is vaccination. It is a gift of love and sometimes a gift of life.
Leong Hoe Nam (Dr)