It may be common for children to receive vaccinations for pertussis, or whooping cough. But NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon says it's also important for parents and other adults to get vaccinations.
The four-time NASCAR Cup series champion is an ambassador for the Sounds of Pertussis campaign. He's in the Kansas City area this weekend for the Hollywood Casino 400 race at the Kansas Speedway. And he spoke to the Leavenworth Times about his participation in the campaign.
Gordon said he's heard about the recent outbreak of pertussis among students in the Easton schools.
At least 14 children in the area have been confirmed to have the disease, according to information from the Leavenworth County Health Department.
"We certainly want all of the parents out there to know that we're thinking about them," Gordon said.
Gordon said he became involved in the Sounds of Pertussis campaign after the birth his daughter, who is now 6.
Gordon said he and his wife were educating themselves about vaccinations and discovered they could be putting their daughter at risk.
That's because the vaccinations people receive for pertussis as children doesn't last into adulthood. And pertussis can spread from adults to infants, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
"It just kind of scared the heck out of us," Gordon said.
Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe said babies are at the highest risk of illness and death from pertussis.
McCabe is the chief medical officer for the March of Dimes and a spokesman for the Sounds of Pertussis campaign.
He said vaccinations for pertussis typically wear off after five to 10 years.
Adults who have pertussis may feel like they have a cold.
"But then the cough can last for weeks," he said.
In the case of babies, there's a risk their illness can turn into pneumonia.
"So it's very serious," he said.
On a national level, McCabe said the country is in one of the largest outbreaks of pertussis in 50 years.
Gordon said people may hear about pertussis as something their parents or grandparents dealt with and not think it's common today.
"You don't realize how dangerous it can be," he said.
Gordon said he's around children a lot on the racing circuit. Some people ask him to hold their babies.
"I feel comfortable that I am protected," he said, because of vaccination.
Gordon said he enjoys coming to the Kansas Speedway.
"They built a fantastic racetrack," he said.
He said the area around the Kansas Speedway has seen a lot growth since he first raced there in 2001.