Canton-Potsdam Hospital now offering whooping cough vaccinations to all parents in maternity ward in effort to reduce outbreaks
Friday, March 1, 2013 - 5:42 pm

Susan Caswell vaccinates John Tuttle against pertussis as part of a new program promoted by the Canton-Potsdam Hospital Birthplace to protect newborn infants. John’s wife Tiffany and their son Seeley look on.

POTSDAM -- John Tuttle recently became the first new dad to receive the vaccine for pertussis, also known as whooping cough, as part of a new program at Canton-Potsdam Hospital’s Birthplace.

Pertussis is a common disease in the United States, affecting approximately 25,000 people per year. Peaks in the number of reported cases occur every three to five years, with a severe outbreak occurring in 2010, hospital officials said.

The disease can be fatal, especially among infants under one year of age, according to hospital staffers.

The hospital’s Birthplace staff members are offering immunizations to new parents as part of an effort to control disease outbreaks and protect newborns.

“Parents are eager to do what’s best for their newborns,” said Susan Smith, director of the Birthplace. “Our staff members routinely offer education to parents about how to keep their babies safe. Even parents who’ve had children before might need new information, as recommendations change with advances in medical knowledge,” said Smith.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, pertussis is caused by a bacterium, Bordatella pertussis, which spreads through droplets exhaled into the air by an infected person.

The disease is highly contagious, and is known by its symptoms: uncontrollable, violent coughing that causes the sufferer to inhale deeply, making a “whooping” sound after a coughing fit, according to the CDC.

“Pertussis is a potentially fatal disease that is preventable,” said Nancy Wood, infection prevention specialist at the hospital. “The best way to protect against the spread of B. pertussis is vaccination.”

“Parents and those who will be closest to the newborn should get the vaccine, known as Tdap, and should ensure their babies are vaccinated according to the schedule recommended by their primary caregiver,” said Wood.

“Vaccination for those, such as grandparents or babysitters, who will be in close contact with newborn infants is also recommended at least two weeks before coming into contact with the baby,” she said. “This is known as cocooning—surrounding the baby with a cocoon of protection.”

“For children younger than seven years of age, the vaccine is known as Dtap. Both Tdap and Dtap are effective against pertussis and also provide protection against diphtheria and tetanus. Adults need diphtheria and tetanus booster shots every ten years to maintain their effectiveness against these two diseases,” she said.

“New parents of the Birthplace and anticipated caregivers can get the vaccine here,” said Smith. “Anticipated caregivers can also visit one of our primary care locations in Brasher Falls, Canton, Norfolk or Potsdam at least two weeks prior to the expected birth date,” she said.

“Expectant mothers can even send e-mail reminders that we provide directly to the baby’s relatives to notify them of this recommendation,” said Smith.

For more information about the pertussis vaccine, prospective parents and their relatives may call the Birthplace at 261-5965 or visit the hospital’s website at