Case Study

Protecting Newborns from Pertussis

Karina, a full-time college student, is 20 and pregnant for the first time. She recently left her job at a child-care center and plans to take off a semester when her baby is born.

During the 24-week prenatal medical checkup, you ask whether Karina is aware that cases of pertussis—which the public knows as whooping cough—are on the rise around the country and that Texas is on pace to reach the highest level of cases in more than 50 years. She’s surprised by that news because she never saw a pertussis case at the child-care center. She remembers getting a pertussis vaccination when she was hired two years ago, but never thought about it again.

You remind Karina that pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease that commonly affects infants and children and can be fatal, with newborns at highest risk. Karina’s newborn daughter will be at risk for pertussis because infants must be at least two months old before receiving the first of five pertussis vaccinations. Everyone in close contact with a baby—especially the mother—should be vaccinated.

portrait of pregnant young woman
20 years

What should you do next?

Recommend that Karina get a Tdap vaccination at this checkup.

Encourage Karina to get a Tdap vaccination between weeks 27 and 36 of her pregnancy.

Remind Karina that once her baby is born, she should restrict contact between the baby and anyone who may have been exposed to pertussis bacteria.

Tell Karina to get a Tdap vaccination before she returns to college next semester.

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About Texas Health Steps

Texas Health Steps’ award-winning online program offers FREE CE courses for primary care providers and other health professionals. These courses offer updated clinical, regulatory, and best practice guidelines for a range of preventive health, oral health, mental health, and case management topics.