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U.S. panel advises all pregnant women get pertussis booster

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An advisory committee for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted on Wednesday to recommend that pregnant women be immunized against pertussis during each pregnancy in hopes of stemming a growing U.S. outbreak of the illness, also known as whooping cough.

Giving a booster shot during pregnancy increases the chances that antibodies from the mother will be passed along to her baby, offering the infant increased protection until the child is old enough be immunized, starting at two months.

According to the CDC, the United States is on track to have the most reported cases of whooping cough since 1959, with more than 32,000 cases reported so far this year, including 16 deaths, most of which occurred in infants.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices favored the expanded use of the whooping cough booster shot given to adolescents and adults, known as Tdap, by a vote of 14-0 with one abstention, the CDC said.

The childhood vaccine, called DTaP, is given in a series of five shots starting at two months.

The recommendation builds on the panel's decision in June 2011 to offer the vaccine during pregnancy only to women who have not previously been immunized.

According to the panel, providers of prenatal care should offer the booster shots regardless of the patient's history of receiving Tdap. If not given during pregnancy, Tdap should be given immediately after delivery, before leaving the hospital or birthing center.

Whooping cough typically begins with cold-like symptoms such as a fever, runny nose and sneezing and is accompanied by a mild cough that grows more severe by the first or second week. A high-pitched whoop, giving the illness its name, can follow violent coughing fits.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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