Pertussis, which is more commonly called Whooping Cough, is an infection of the respiratory system. The disease causes severe coughing spells, during which it becomes difficult to catch one’s breath. It gets its name from the “whoop” sound made when a person inhales forcefully during these spells.
Whooping cough is extremely contagious, but has not been a significant problem in the last few decades because of available vaccine. Just recently, however, it has seen a resurgence throughout the United States. The CDC states that in 2008, 13,000 cases were reported which resulted in 18 deaths. California is currently experiencing a rising number of pertussis cases, and the disease is expected to spread to many other U.S. states.
Initial symptoms mirror those of the common cold: runny nose, sneezing, mild cough, and a low-grade fever. After 1-2 weeks, the cough becomes much more severe. Violent coughing spells can last for more than a minute, and lead to the whooping sound when trying to breathe in. The cough can also cause vomiting.
Who is at risk?
- Anyone who has not been vaccinated, or those whose vaccinations are out of date
- Adults and adolescents are more likely to get the disease, as the effectiveness of past vaccine fades
- Infants and children are at the greatest risk of developing complications
The best way to treat whooping cough is to prevent it. Make sure you and your loved ones are up to date with vaccinations, specifically the DTaP vaccine for infants and children, and the Tdap booster for adolescents and adults. The CDC recommends that adolescents and adults from 19 to 64 years of age be revaccinated with the Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) booster, even if they were completely vaccinated as children.
Once someone comes down with the disease, antibiotics can be used to shorten the infectious period and potentially to reduce the severity of the symptoms. In the most severe cases, especially in children, hospitalization may be required.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
- When you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough
- If someone in your household, or someone you have been in close contact with, gets the disease
- Coughing spells that make you turn red or purple, that are followed by vomiting, and/or are accompanied by a whooping sound
Treatment for Whooping Cough is available now at Omni-Med in Florham Park, NJ.
For more information on Whooping Cough (Pertussis), see the following websites:
AdultVaccination.org Whooping Cough Information
KidsHealth.org Whooping Cough Overview
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