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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Protecting newborns from pertussis – the challenge of complete cocooning

Pascal Urwyler and Ulrich Heininger*

Author Affiliations

Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University Children’s Hospital Basel (UKBB), Spitalstrasse 33, PO Box, CH 4031 Basel, Switzerland

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:397  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-397

Published: 17 July 2014

Abstract

Background

An increase of pertussis cases, especially in young infants and adolescents, has been noted in various countries. Whooping cough is most serious in neonates and young infants in whom it may cause serious complications such as cyanosis, apnoea, pneumonia, encephalopathy and death. To protect newborns and infants too young to be fully immunized, immunization of close contact persons has been proposed (“cocoon strategy”) and implemented in several countries, including Switzerland in 2011. The goal of this study was to assess knowledge about pertussis among parents of newborns and acceptance, practicability and implementation of the recently recommended pertussis cocoon strategy in Switzerland.

Methods

We performed a cross sectional survey among all parents of newborns born between May and September 2012 and 2013 in Basel city and country. Regional statistical offices provided family addresses after approval by the ethical and data protection committees. A standardized questionnaire with detailed instructions was sent to all eligible families. For statistical analyses, independent proportions were compared by Pearson’s chi-squared test.

Results

Of 3546 eligible parents, 884 (25%) participated. All three questions exploring pertussis knowledge were answered correctly by 37% of parents; 25% gave two correct answers, 22% gave one correct answer and in the remaining 16% no answer was correct. Pertussis immunization as part of cocooning was recommended to 20% and 37% of mothers and 14% and 32% of fathers in the 2012 and 2013 study cohorts, respectively. Principal advisors for cocooning were pediatricians (66%) followed by gynecologists/obstetricians (12%) and general practitioners (5%). When recommended, 64% of mothers and 59% of fathers accepted pertussis immunization. The majority of vaccinations were administered in the perinatal period and within 2 months of the child’s birth. However, cocooning remained incomplete in 93% of families and in most families <50% of close contacts received pertussis vaccination.

Conclusions

Implementation of cocooning for protecting newborns from pertussis is challenging and usually remains incomplete. Pertussis immunization rates among close contacts of newborns need to be improved. Ideally, all healthcare providers involved in family planning, pregnancy and child birth should recommend cocooning. Pertussis immunization of pregnant women is an additional measure for optimal protection of newborns and should be promoted.

Keywords:
Pertussis; Bordetella pertussis; Vaccine; Cocooning; Neonates