By: Julie Steenhuysen
The findings, published on Thursday in the journal Science, contradict the notion that infected adults are behind outbreaks in California and elsewhere of whooping cough, a contagious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
A U.S. advisory panel last month recommended that adults over 65 be given a booster of the “Tdap” vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough, to protect infants under a year old, who are too young to be vaccinated.
But older people may not be the main culprit, Pejman Rohani of the University of Michigan and colleagues say.
Whooping cough, which causes uncontrollable, violent coughing, infects 30-50 million people a year globally and kills about 300,000, mostly children in developing countries.
There are regular outbreaks in developed countries, including one in California that has affected more than 6,400 people and killed at least 10 infants, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
To study the effects of social interactions on spreading whooping cough, the research team used a situation in Sweden.
That country halted its whooping cough vaccination program in 1979 because of vaccine safety concerns, and did not resume routine vaccination for 17 years. But health authorities continued to track cases of whooping cough by age group.
“We took advantage of an unplanned natural experiment,” Rohani said in a telephone interview.
(Note from SaneVax: The U.S. advisory panel and the CDC need to pay attention to the science. If adults do not spread whooping cough, there is no reason for mass-vaccination. Will this study be overlooked, or will someone actually follow-up and determine exactly what the findings indicate in regards to proposed vaccination programs?)