News & Events

Backus, Uncas Health partner to eliminate whooping cough

September 7, 2012

With cases of pertussis, also known as “whopping cough” rising at alarming rates, Backus Hospital is partnering with the Uncas Health District to protect infants by providing immunizations for parents, grandparents and caregivers.

By receiving the vaccine, loved ones can protect themselves and their families from this growing health issue and form a “cocoon” around the infants they care for. For that reason, it is called the Cocoon Program.

“Infants are most susceptible to pertussis because they cannot start immunizations for it until they are 2 months old,” said Julie Belcher, MD, of OB/GYN Services in Norwich and a member of the Backus Medical Staff. “We used to be of the belief that adults didn’t need boosters, but recently we’ve discovered that adults need these vaccinations to protect infants.”

Cocooning infants is a protective measure recommended by the CDC, along with the Connecticut Department of Public Health Immunization Program. Birthing Centers across the state, including Backus, have demonstrated some success in vaccinating mothers following the birth of their children.  Vaccinating fathers and other close family members, however, has proved to be more difficult and is a primary objective of the cocoon program, and a goal of the Backus Birthing Center Nurses Practice Council.

Birthing Center nurses have been administering Tdap to postpartum mothers for the last few years. Patients generally experience minimal discomfort including a sore arm or mild pain at the injection site.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with Backus Hospital to offer this important protection for our community,” said Cindy Arpin, RN, Public Health Nurse for the Uncas Health District. “With proactive public health initiatives such as the Cocoon Program, we can prevent the outbreaks that we have seen elsewhere from occurring in our area.”

Anyone that cares for an infant but hasn’t been immunized against pertussis can call Ms. Arpin for an appointment to get vaccinated at 860-823-1189, ext. 123. Immunizations are $15 for Uncas Health District region residents (Norwich, Montville, Sprague, Bozrah, Griswold, Lisbon and

Voluntown) and $20 for non-residents. The Uncas Health District is located at 401 W. Thames Street, Suite 106, in Norwich.


Signs of pertussis:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the symptoms of pertussis (whooping cough) are:

  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild, occasional cough
  • Apnea – a pause in breathing (in infants)

As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Fits of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop”
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue after coughing fits