A new study shows the best way to protect infants from the potentially fatal whooping cough disease is to protect teens first.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a disease that can cause serious illness and even death in infants. Babies can't actually be immunized until they're 2 months old, and they're not fully protected until they're one year of age.
So how do you keep them from catching whooping cough? Get your other kids vaccinated first.
A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows vaccinating adolescents may help reduce the number of infant hospitalizations when it comes to Pertussis. The study said 3.3 out of every 10,000 infants are hospitalized for the disease; without the children's vaccine, that number would have been around 10.7, according to the report.
The vaccine is part of a "cocooning effect" that keeps babies safe by vaccinating those around them. Specialists say teenagers are the most likely to spread pertussis and other contagious diseases. Infants are most likely to die from it.
"The best protection for infants in our community is really that cocooning effect and immunizing the people directly around them," said Bridget Pfaff, an infection control specialist at Gundersen Health Systems.
Pfaff said the region has seen fewer hospitalized infants lately, which would be a testimony to the rising instances of vaccinated teens. She added cases are still circulating in local schools. That could be just another reason to get the vaccine.
"Over time, the more individuals that are protected in our community, the less transmission of the bacteria that there would be," Pfaff said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, pertussis is on the rise. More than 50,000 cases were reported in 2012, the most since 1955. However, the disease has decreased nearly 75 percent since vaccines have been offered.
The CDC says adolescents should get the pertussis vaccine around age 11. It's also one of the vaccinations required by schools.
Pregnant women are also urged to get the vaccine.