NASCAR champ helps launch pertussis awareness campaign on Facebook

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Despite efforts for public awareness, whooping cough is on the rise. It's reached epidemic levels in Washington state and in Texas. More than 360 cases have already been reported so far this year.

That's why NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon is turning to social media to raise awareness and funds to help stop the spread of pertussis.

About 8,160 provisional pertussis cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control as of May 5, 2012. That's an 87 percent increase compared to the same timeframe last year.

Sound of Pertussis is launching a new initiative asking every adult to protect their babies by getting a booster shot and encouraging others to do the same.

Gordon and his wife have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about pertussis. Still, the numbers continue to rise at alarming rates.

Gordon said, "As a parent myself, and my wife, we realized with our first child, our daughter, we were putting her at risk because we weren't vaccinated. So we made sure we didn't take that risk with our son, who was born a couple years ago."

A May 2012 online survey of 4,247 adults found nearly three-quarters of parents ask their caregivers to use car seats and wash their hands, but less than a fifth ask them to get the pertussis booster shot.

Also known as whooping cough, pertussis is highly contagious. It is spread through the air by infectious respiratory droplets.

In adults, early signs mimic a cold or bronchitis.

In babies, whooping cough, if left untreated, can quickly lead to complications, even death.

March of Dimes medical advisor and OB/Gyn Dr. Siobhan Dolan said, "The really important part is that we cocoon the newborn, and we do that by making sure that all the adults in contact with that child have had their Tdap booster."

Gordon and Dolan are getting the word out about a new Facebook campaign called Take Pertussis Out of the Picture.

Gordon explained, "Make a pledge that if you're going to be in close contact with an infant, that you get your adult Tdap booster, like we did, and also post your own photo and Take Pertussis Out of the Picture."

For each family photo posted, Sanofi Pasteur will donate a dollar to the March of Dimes. The company will donate up to $10,0000.

It's a commitment to save lives.

Dolan said, "Once in your adult life after age 11, every adult should get their Tdap booster and new moms, new dads should ask grandma and grandpa to go get their booster. Ask their care providers if they've had their booster shot. Remind the new aunts and uncles. You're doing them a favor by letting them know what they can do to help protect their new family member."

Eighty percent of babies catch pertussis from a family member.

It can be treated with antibiotics, but it is critical to seek help as soon as you notice symptoms.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.