(BPT) - Sarah Michelle Gellar, Emmy® Award-winning actress and star of the upcoming CBS comedy "The Crazy Ones," is joining March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur on the Sounds of Pertussis®Campaign. As a mother of two young children, the youngest having arrived in September 2012, Gellar wants to help raise awareness about the potential dangers of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and the importance of adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccination.
Pertussis is a highly contagious and often serious disease, especially in young children. In adolescents and adults it usually presents as a severe cough that may last for weeks and even months. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), America is experiencing one of the largest outbreaks of reported pertussis cases in approximately 50 years, with more than 41,000 reported cases and 18 deaths in 2012.
“No matter how busy my career gets, my family and their health are always my number one priority,” said Gellar. “That’s why I’m urging adults to get vaccinated against pertussis to help protect themselves and to help stop the spread of the disease to infants.”
In adults and adolescents the disease is typically mild and frequently mistaken for a cold, but in babies it can be potentially fatal. In fact, babies and young children are at a higher risk for pertussis related complications. Researchers found that in cases where it could be determined how an infant caught pertussis, family members were responsible for spreading the disease to the baby in up to 80 percent of cases. More specifically, parents were responsible up to 50 percent of the time.
“Immunity from early childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off after about five to 10 years, meaning even adults who were immunized as children may no longer be protected,” said Siobhan M. Dolan, M.D., Medical Advisor to March of Dimes. “The best way for adults to help protect themselves and to help prevent the spread of the disease is to ensure they are vaccinated.”
As the National Sounds of Pertussis Campaign Ambassador, Gellar is also encouraging parents to use the Campaign’s new Facebook application – the Breathing Room – that allows parents to send a brief message to family and friends in their Facebook network asking them to make the pledge to be vaccinated against pertussis before meeting the newborn in their life.
Since 2009, March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur have worked together on the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, a national education campaign to help raise awareness about the potential dangers of pertussis. Remember, although pertussis may be on the rise nationwide, there are simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and to help stop the spread of the disease to your infant: make sure everyone who comes in contact with your infant is up to date on their vaccinations.