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Metro Health Rolls out New Program to Safeguard Infants

Posted: November 18, 2008

In an effort to make homecoming safer for newborns, Metro Health Hospital is rolling out a pilot program to provide free whooping cough vaccinations to all family caregivers.

The new program, which will debut in January, is designed to prevent the spread of whooping cough, or pertussis, to infants. Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that is easily transmittable – and potentially fatal to infants. In 2006, more than 300 Michigan infants under the age of six weeks required hospitalization for whooping cough.

The vaccination program, which is funded by the Metro Health Hospital Foundation, will provide free pertussis vaccinations to new mothers, fathers, grandparents and other family members who will provide care to the new baby. Vaccinations will be administered before infants and their mothers are discharged from Metro Health.

"Studies have show that family members are the source of whopping cough 75 percent of the time in infants younger than six weeks," said Deb Paul-Cheadle, infection control officer at Metro Health. "This vaccination program can help protect a very vulnerable portion of our population.

"Many people think that whooping cough is a disease of the past, but that’s not the case. This disease is on the rise, with reported cases doubling from 2002-03 to 2004-07. We appreciate the support we have received from the Metro Health Hospital Foundation to address this serious health issue and improve the health and well-being of our community."

Three Metro Health departments – obstetrics, pharmacy and infection prevention – are working together to finalize details and protocols for the pilot program. Beginning in January, all family members of infants born at Metro Health Hospital will be offered education about whooping cough, as well as a free vaccine.

Pertussis creates thick, sticky mucus in the airways, making it difficult to breathe, eat and drink. People struggling with pertussis often make a loud "whoop" sound as they try to breathe through narrowed airways between coughing spasms, giving the disease its second name, whooping cough.

"Whooping cough is particularly distressing in infants, who can have trouble breathing and turn blue," Paul-Cheadle said. "It can be spread easily, though coughs and sneezes, and is highly contagious in the first weeks of infection. In fact, its symptoms mimic cold symptoms, which can make it difficult to identify in its early stages. Yet pertussis is much more serious and can lead to pneumonia and seizures and, in some cases, affect the brain. We look forward to offering the community what could be a life-saving service for many."

About Metro Health Hospital Foundation
The Metro Health Hospital Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the West Michigan community through philanthropy. The Foundation’s support of Metro Health Hospital allows individuals, organizations and businesses to contribute funds that prevent catastrophic illnesses, provide life-saving education and screenings, improve overall patient care and fund a wide variety of programs and services. Learn more about the Foundation.



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