By Julie Steenhuysen
Thu Nov 11, 2010 7:04pm EST
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Children largely spread whooping cough among themselves, so blanket vaccination campaigns targeting teens and adults may be a waste of time, according to a study that looks at how social patterns affect disease transmission.
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.