A baby’s coos and ga-gas can melt any parent’s heart, but there’s one sound that can fill it with fear: a whooping cough. Also known as pertussis, this condition is highly contagious and it’s estimated that there may be as many as 3.3 million adults and teens with the disease in any given year. Symptoms are often milder in adults—where the condition is usually mistaken for a cold or bronchitis—but more severe in vulnerable babies who are not fully immunized. In recent years, about 90 percent of pertussis deaths have occurred in babies younger than four months.
Which is why new mami Jennifer Lopez has teamed up with the March of Dimes to create the “Sounds of Pertussis,” a national public awareness campaign that will educate new parents and families about the potentially deadly disease for infants. Many adults don’t know that their own childhood pertussis vaccine no longer provides immunity after 10 years. So now the initiative is encouraging adults to get a tetanus, diptheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster shot to keep from transmitting the disease to their young ones.
“When I learned that many babies who get pertussis catch it from their parents, and how easy it is for adults to get vaccinated, I was shocked,” Lopez says. “New and expectant parents have so many things to worry about. Getting pertussis themselves, or possibly spreading the disease to their own children shouldn’t be one of them.”
Because Hispanic babies may be at a higher risk for catching—and dying—from the disease, La Lopez recorded several TV and radio PSAs in both English and Spanish. A four-part radio novella will also air on Spanish radio stations nationwide.
To learn more about pertussis and how to protect your baby, visit soundsofpertussis.com. And celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month by swinging by the campaign’s exhibit tomorrow on Military Island in NYC’s Time Square (between 43rd and 44th Streets on Broadway) from 7 AM- 8 PM for games and info.