RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com)-- Nevada's Health Department believes they've found a way to prevent a disease that is in some cases fatal for infants.
Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, is on the rise nationally and in some states considered to be an epidemic.
"I have an 8 month old who when he was in the hospital looking at him he's so beautiful and helpless and if I can do something to protect," Assistant Director of Immunize Katie Nannini says.
Nannini along with State of Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Immunization Special Projects Manager Kathie Lloyd know first hand how fatal pertussis can be for newborns.
"You probably would have to be living in a cave not to have heard about outbreaks and epidemics of pertussis in the last few years," Lloyd says.
Now Nevada has found a way to stay ahead of the disease.
"If we could immunize all of those people we would be able to create a cocoon of safety around the new born until that newborn can have it's own safety," Lloyd says.
Nevada's Cocooning Program protects newborn infants by immunizing the baby's immediate family.
Thus, protecting the baby by surrounding it people deemed safe, just like a caterpillar's cocoon, because babies cannot be fully immunized until they're about 12 to 18 months.
As of 2012, all birthing hospitals in Nevada started providing some form of cocooning for pertussis and influenza.
Nevada is using federal funding from the CDC to make the vaccines free for patients.
"Every dollar that's spent on a vaccine multiple dollars are saved in what it would cost to buy care for a sick individual," Lloyd says.
As co-creator of the program, Lloyd knows the cocooning works.
Nevada's incident rate is less than half of the national average.
According to Nannini the national incident rate in November was 9.3/100,000 compared to Nevada's 3.47/100,000.
She says now it's time for the rest of the country to follow suit.
"There is a need for Nevada which has not always been known as a health conscience state to step forward for once and be a role model for preventing disease and promoting health," Lloyd says.
Because for moms like Katie, she believes protecting our babies, protects our future.
The Nevada State Immunization Program was awarded the Bull's-Eye award by the Association of Immunization Managers for the innovation of the cocooning program.