Actress and mother of two Sarah Michelle Gellar has joined March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur on the Sounds of Pertussis® Campaign to help raise awareness about pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and the importance of adult vaccination. Pertussis is on the rise across the U.S., and infants and young children may be most vulnerable.
“The reality is that parents, grandparents and other family members may unknowingly spread pertussis to the babies in their lives,” says Sarah Michelle Gellar. “That’s why I was vaccinated and so was my family to help protect ourselves and to help stop the spread of the disease to my two children. Now, as the National Sounds of Pertussis Campaign Ambassador I’m urging adults everywhere to do the same.”
Pertussis is a highly contagious and often serious disease, especially in young children. In 2012, there were more than 41,000 reported pertussis cases and 18 deaths in the U.S., with more than 83 percent of deaths occurring in infants younger than 12 months of age. Infants are particularly vulnerable to pertussis because they don’t begin receiving their own vaccinations until they are two months old and may not be protected until they have received at least three doses of the infant DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccine. Researchers found that in cases where it could be determined how an infant caught pertussis, family members were responsible for spreading the disease to the baby up to 80 percent of the time. More specifically, parents were responsible up to 50 percent of the time.
“Immunity from early childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off after about five to 10 years, meaning even adults who were immunized as children may no longer be protected,” says Siobhan M. Dolan, M.D., medical advisor to March of Dimes. “The best way for adults to help protect themselves and to help prevent the spread of the disease is to ensure they are vaccinated.”
Gellar is encouraging parents of infants everywhere to use the Campaign’s new Facebook application – the Breathing Room – that allows parents to send a brief message to family and friends in their Facebook network asking them to make the pledge to be vaccinated against pertussis before meeting the newborn in their life. Parents can personalize their own Breathing Room and help keep track of who in their child’s circle of care has been, or pledges to be, vaccinated against this potentially fatal disease by populating their baby’s virtual nursery with pictures of their family and friends from their Facebook network.
To learn more about the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, please visit www.SoundsOfPertussis.com. The website provides resources and educational tools, including information on the new Breathing Room Facebook app.