Whooping cough was once a menace to children, but in recent years it had all but faded from memory. Now it’s back with a vengeance. This year is the worst in five decades for whooping cough, something that can be deadly in babies.
Whooping cough is making a comeback. 2012 is shaping up to be the worst in 50 years. To help keep you safe, we’ve identified five things you should know. First - whooping cough comes from the disease called pertussis.
“Bordetella pertussis is the etiologic agent of whooping cough; it causes whooping cough. And the Chinese word for pertussis literally translates to ‘a hundred day cough,’ so it’s a very prolonged illness,” says Dr. Angela D’Alessandro, a pediatrician on Lee Memorial Health System's medical staff.
Second - whooping cough is most dangerous in the very young.
“The illness has the highest mortality in infants under three months. They don’t just get the coughing spells but they stop breathing, they can have respiratory failure, seizures, and death,” says Dr. D’Alessandro.
Why is whooping cough a problem now? Experts believe people are either not getting their children immunized against it or their pertussis protection is simply wearing off.
It’s important children get the vaccine and follow the directed schedule of boosters. But you should know the vaccine doesn’t provide permanent protection.
“It lasts about five to ten years, twelve tops. So by the time you’re a teenager, you are probably not immune any longer to pertussis,” says Dr. D’Alessandro.
So it’s the adolescent and adult population who spread the disease.
“When we look at how an infant gets pertussis, 50 percent of cases are from mom and dad; another 25 percent are from grandma and grandpa,” says Dr. D’Alessandro.
The CDC urges adults, pregnant women, and the elderly to be vaccinated and keep an umbrella of protection. While the disease is most contagious early on, it can be transmitted for months.
“You’re contagious the whole period that you’re coughing. You can imagine how much can be spread over a three-month period of time,” says Dr. D’Alessandro.
It’s important to keep an eye out for the disease by keeping an ear out for it’s distinct cough.