Nurses are pivotal to fighting the rise in pertussis

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Nurses who work in hospitals facilitate patient care in several ways. They process individuals through triage, monitor clinical changes and often provide follow-up care after hospital discharge. One of the most important tasks for nurses is to provide health education for patients outside the hospital setting. Currently, one of the most important topics in medicine is the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, including pertussis. New research, published in the Journal of Christian Nursing, suggested that nurses can play a prominent role in fighting this trend by educating patients and families about the importance of immunization.


‘Practitioners must build a trusting relationship’

According to the authors of the study, the average annual rate of pertussis infections in the U.S. jumped from fewer than 3,000 cases per year during the 1980s to 48,000 in 2012. Within the latter statistic were 20 deaths.

There are two main factors that drive the rising rate of pertussis in the U.S. One is the arrival of non-immunized immigrants, and the other is the increased utilization of non-medical exemptions from inoculation due to both religious and non-religious reasons. Language barriers, financial concerns and the availability of vaccines are also influential.

“Practitioners must build a trusting relationship with patients and reinforce the need for vaccinations through face-to-face contact, engaging parents to discuss concerns, and provide evidence-based research to guide recommendations and reassure patients of the safety of vaccines,” the authors wrote. This may entail creating educational materials for hospital waiting rooms, or reassuring parents that current formulations of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis do not contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that had been tied to autism. Another point that is important to raise during the discussion of pertussis is the fact that babies cannot be inoculated against this infection until they are at least 2 months old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before then, they are at their most vulnerable to the bacterial infection. To protect newborn children, nurses and other providers should talk to expectant mothers about receiving a pertussis shot during the third trimester, surrounding the baby only with individuals who had been previously immunized and, eventually, making sure a baby receives all the recommended vaccines as scheduled. The CDC also noted that most babies are infected by their parents, older siblings or caregivers who are not aware that they carry the disease.


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