Whooping Cough (Pertussis) is on the Rise
Pertussis, known as whooping cough for the sound people make when they cough, is unfortunately making come back. There were more than 41,000 cases in the United States in 2012. In Pennsylvania, we had 1,768 cases of whopping cough, more than twice as many as in 2011. We have an average of 12.9 cases per 100,000 people, which is above the national rate of 11.6.
What is Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough is an extremely contagious bacterial infection. The bacteria causes serious respiratory problems due to its impact on the lungs and breathing tubes. The infection causes violent coughing that the infected individual cannot stop.
Whooping cough is most serious for young children and babies. Most deaths from the disease are among babies 3 months and younger. It is most contagious among young children and babies, though adults can be affected.
Pertussis is easily passed through the air by breathing, coughing and sneezing. According to the CDC, a person is contagious when he is showing symptoms and for at least two weeks after the coughing starts. Whooping cough sometimes leads to pneumonia in young children.
The first symptoms of whopping cough are a lot like any cold:
- Runny or stuffed up nose
- Mild cough
- Pause in breathing in infants
Next, during a period of 1 to 2 weeks, the symptoms become more serious:
- Severe coughing begins
- Children will cough extremely hard and be unable to stop
- The whooping noise begin, though babies may not make this noise
- The coughing makes it difficult to eat, drink, or sleep
- Severe enough coughing may cause a lack of oxygen. Very young children and babies may turn blue
- The coughing can last for 10 weeks
Treatment and Prevention
If you or your child have whooping cough, it is important to get to the doctor right away. The earlier the treatment the better. Doctors may treat pertussis prior to test results if they strongly suspect whooping cough. Treatment involves antibiotics.
The CDC is recommending a vaccination to prevent whooping cough. It acknowledges that the vaccine may not prevent all cases of pertussis, but feels that the risks versus the effectiveness make it worth it. Adults need to have booster shots to keep their vaccination effective.