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Public Health - Seattle & King County

King County infant dies of pertussis

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Heartbreaking loss of life is a reminder that pregnant mothers and family members should be immunized to protect newborns and young babies

On December 13, 2012 a newborn King County child died from pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough. In 2012 to date there were 752 confirmed cases of pertussis reported among King County residents, the highest number in over a decade. Out of respect for the family's privacy, most details about the circumstances surrounding this death are not being shared publicly.


Infants are at the highest risk for serious illness, hospitalization and death from pertussis. Fortunately, pertussis is preventable with a widely available vaccine. Women should be revaccinated with every pregnancy because protection is passed from mother to baby. Vaccinating the mother, ideally between week 27 and 36 of her pregnancy, provides temporary immunity until the baby is old enough to get immunized, beginning at 2 months of age.

Assuring that all family members and other close contacts are up-to-date with their pertussis vaccine provides additional security, or a "cocoon" around vulnerable babies. Persons with cold or cough symptoms should stay away from babies because even people with mild symptoms can spread pertussis, influenza, and other infections.

In addition to women with each pregnancy, Tdap is recommended for all adults and teens 11 years of age and older if they have not received it previously. Children under 11 years should be up-to-date with their childhood pertussis vaccinations.

Pertussis data

In King County:

  • Pertussis cases to date this year: 752 confirmed cases. Because not everyone with pertussis is diagnosed and reported, the actual number of people infected is even higher.
  • Deaths in 2012: The infant death reported in this news release is the first pertussis death in the County this year.
  • Number of hospitalizations in 2012: 12
  • Peak illness: Case reports are declining after a peak in May, 2012. The number of reports received each week continues to be higher than this time in 2011, and higher than the 5-year average for this time of year.
  • In 2011 there were 98 confirmed cases, 4 hospitalizations, and 0 deaths.
Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for over 1.9 million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health — Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.