Slathering yourself with hand sanitizer before cuddling that newborn addition to the family isn't enough of a safeguard against the latest health threat: whooping cough.
Utah health officials are urging adults friends, family, neighbors and baby sitters to get vaccinated for pertussis, or whooping cough, before getting close to babies.
"By ensuring that everyone in contact with an infant is immunized, we create a 'cocoon' of protection around the baby until she is old enough to be fully vaccinated herself," said Salt Lake Valley Health Department Director Gary Edwards.
State officials, collaborating with nine of Utah's 12 local health departments, launched a website on Monday (StopWhoopingCough.org) to help Utahns find convenient vaccination locations. It also features an "email generator" to help new and expecting parents request that loved ones get a Tdap vaccine before visiting the new baby.
Get your Tdap shot at a participating health department or Harmons grocery store pharmacy and you'll receive a free one-piece bodysuit for babies, while supplies last.
Utah's whooping cough rate is more than four times the national average; it is blamed for one death and 45 hospitalizations in 2012. The 1,497 cases reported last year were more than double the state's cases in 2011.
While pertussis usually results in minor, but prolonged, illness in healthy adults, it can be fatal in infants who are too young to be fully immunized against it.
Because vaccine protection for pertussis fades with time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults age 19 years and older get a booster shot at least two weeks prior to coming into close contact with an infant.
Whooping cough in Utah
By the numbers, 2012:
1,497 reported cases