Pertussis, more commonly known as “whooping cough,” is on the rise in parts of the United States and proper vaccination can protect against this highly contagious bacterial infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that pertussis, which causes severe coughing fits that can produce a “whooping” sound when an infected patient struggles to take a breath, has been on the rise in the United States in recent years. The disease can be deadly to newborns and infants who are at high risk for complications, pneumonia and delays in their breathing.
Whooping cough is spread by breathing in bacteria from an infected person’s cough. Early symptoms of the disease are similar to those of a common cold but, two weeks later a persistent cough can develop along with a runny nose, fever and diarrhea. Since the symptoms are so close to those of the common cold, a doctor has to test a mucus sample to determine if it’s pertussis.
Pertussis usually affects babies and small children, who are required to receive several stages of pertussis vaccinations. Immunity can wear off over time, requiring a booster shot after the age of 18. Very few adults get that shot, however, putting them at greater risk of unknowingly passing on the infection to their children. Many times, adults will have a persistent cough that they think is a remnant of a cold or bronchitis when, in fact, it’s pertussis. Pregnant women are encouraged to get the pertussis vaccine late in the second or third trimester so they can pass on protective antibodies to their babies at birth. Teens and adults who are in frequent contact with babies are encouraged to get the vaccine, if they have not already received it, to form a virtual cocoon of immunity around the newborn.
Do You Know the Sound of Whooping Cough?
Listen to an infant’s cough.
Listen to an adult male’s cough.
August is immunization awareness month in the military health system.
To learn more about preventing and treating pertussis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
View CDC chart of pertussis cases.
This post was contributed by health.mil.