An empty bottle of Tetanus, Diphthera and Pertussis (whooping cough)...

An empty bottle of Tetanus, Diphthera and Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine at Inderkum High School in Sacramento, Calif. Health officials say the U.S. is on track to have the worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades. Credit: AP, 2011

As was noted in Newsday's July 24 editorial "We must whip whooping cough again," our nation is seeing a sharp increase in the number of whooping cough or pertussis cases, a disease many of us thought was history.

On the local level, Dr. Shetal Shah of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Stony Brook University Hospital, aware of the climbing number of pertussis cases, came to my office earlier this year and brought a simple idea that could prevent this disease in newborns, who are especially at risk of serious illness or death if infected. One of the most effective methods to protect infants is to vaccinate their caregivers. The only problem was that new parents didn't know this.

With the passage of new legislation this year, hospitals with newborn nurseries are now required to provide a vaccine against pertussis to parents and others in contact with the infants.

The pertussis vaccine is short-lived and can wear off within a decade, so some people who were immunized as children are no longer protected and should get a booster shot.

Steve Englebright, Setauket

Editor's note: The writer is a member of the State Assembly.


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