4 Things Travelers Need To Know About Pertussis Vaccines

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious, vaccine-preventable disease. It's a standard part of childhood vaccinations, but the vaccine that you got as a kid is no longer protecting you. The vaccine only last for 10 years, so unless you get a booster shot of the pertussis vaccine, you could get sick on your holidays. Here are four things that travelers need to know about the pertussis vaccine.

What is pertussis?

Pertussis is a contagious bacterial infection. If a person who has pertussis coughs or sneezes, you may breathe in droplets that are full of the bacteria. 7 to 10 days later, you will start to feel sick. At first, you feel like you have a cold, but over the next week or two mucous will build up inside your airways and you will develop a persistent cough.

Pertussis can cause deadly complications in young children, but in adults, the complications are less serious. You may develop pneumonia and the force of your cough may break your ribs or make you pass out. It's unlikely that you'll die, but you will be very uncomfortable and your holiday will definitely be ruined.

Which travelers need the vaccine?

Many vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer a major issue in developed countries, but pertussis is not one of them. Pertussis is endemic throughout the world, so no matter where your travels will take you, you should get the vaccine. Even domestic travelers are not safe. In the United States, pertussis is still common, and nearly 50,000 cases were reported to the CDC in 2012.

Getting the vaccine is especially important if your travels will take you to a region with underdeveloped or hard-to-access healthcare services.

How is the vaccine given?

If you receive the pertussis vaccine as a kid, you only need a single booster shot. It takes at least two weeks for the vaccine to fully protect you, so make sure to plan ahead so that you're fully protected by the time you leave for your holiday.

Is the vaccine effective?

Studies have shown that the booster immunization is about 90% effective. This means that your risk of getting sick will be greatly reduced, but since the vaccine does an offer 100% protection, make sure to take precautions like washing your hands regularly and wearing a mask if you are around someone who has a cough.

If you plan to travel, see your primary care physician before you go so that you can arrange get all of your recommended vaccinations, including the pertussis vaccine.