TEEN BOOSTER? Concern about a rise in whooping cough cases is prompting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider approval of a booster vaccine against the bacterial respiratory disease.

More than 11,000 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, were reported in the United States last year, according to a preliminary count by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's the highest number in three decades, up 13 percent from 9,771 in 2002. More than a third of new cases occur in those age 10 to 19.

Pertussis, a contagious disease marked by severe coughing spells, used to be a major cause of illness and death among U.S. infants and young children before a vaccine was developed in the 1940s. Children are now routinely vaccinated against pertussis two, four and six months after birth, but immunity may wear off over time.

GlaxoSmithKline is seeking FDA approval for its product, Boostrix, already sold in some countries. Boostrix is meant to boost protection for those aged 10 to 18. Glaxo competitor Aventis Pasteur plans to seek approval later this year for Adacel, a pertussis booster for people aged 11 to 64.

Pertussis is also increasing in infants under 5 months of age -- too young for the combined DTaP (diptheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccine to protect well.

CONTINUITY COUNTS Patients who receive regular checkups from the same doctor are likelier to get better preventive care -- including flu shots and mammograms -- than others. That finding, from a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, adds to mounting evidence that continuity of care affects patient outcomes. The evidence comes at a time when relationships between patients and primary care physicians are eroding under managed care and other pressures.

Researchers looked at household data from more than 60 U.S. communities, comparing care provided to people with a wide range of care habits, including some who saw no doctor at all. Besides flu shots and breast exams, they noted, patients with long-standing relationships with their doctors were more likely to get advice on how to quit smoking.

MORE TIME TO CROSS Bicycle crashes and injuries -- many of them serious and involving moving cars -- are most common in kids between the ages of 5 and 15. A study in the journal Child Development suggests why: When children aged 10 to 12 rode stationary bikes through a virtual course, they left far less time -- and less margin for error -- to cross traffic than did adult riders. Researchers say virtual courses offer potential for bicycle safety instruction.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports