I lost a patient this season, an infant, to pertussis. After falling ill he lived for nearly a month in the intensive care unit on a ventilator, three weeks of which was spent on a heart/lung bypass machine (ECMO) due to the extent of the damage to his lungs, but all our efforts were in vain. The most aggressive and advanced care medicine has to offer couldn’t save his life; the only thing that could have saved him would have been to prevent him from contracting pertussis in the first place.
He was unvaccinated, but that was because of his age. He was part of the population that is fully dependent on herd immunity for protection, and that is exquisitely prone to a life-threatening course once infected. This is a topic we’ve covered ad nauseum, and I’m not inclined to go into greater depth in this post. Suffice it to say his death is a failure at every level; we, both as medical professionals and as a society at large need to do a better job of protecting our children from preventable diseases. (more…)