What is Pertussis?

Pertussis or whooping cough has been in the news lately. As one of the longtime vaccine preventable diseases it has come to the forefront again secondary to the controversies of vaccines. Many families are choosing not to vaccinate or re-vaccinate causing many of these vaccine preventable diseases to rear their ugly heads again. Pertussis outbreaks have been steadily occurring over the past few years. 2012 brought over 48,000 cases the most since 1955. According to a recent report from the CDC, this year reported cases in the United States increased 30% than last year.

Sometimes whooping cough is hard to detect as the symptoms come in three stages. The incubation period for these symptoms to begin is about 7-10 days, but can be longer. The first stage called the catarrhal stage looks like the common cold. It consists of runny nose, sneezing, low grade fevers and mild cough. Secondly, in the paroxysmal stage, symptoms include spasms of coughing, the whoop, vomiting and sheer exhaustion. This is the stage most associated with all the complications. The third stage, or convalescent stage, is the recovery stage with frequent, but less spasms of coughing.

It can be difficult to assess newborns or infants when it comes to coughing. Which increases the risk of the disease to worsen before it is diagnosed. This makes it imperative that we achieve a cocooning effect, or circle of vaccinated people around the infants that are too young to be vaccinated; as they receive their first Dtap (Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis) at 2 months of age. Prior to that, children are extremely vulnerable. All adults and adolescents around the child should receive their Tdap boosters as soon as possible and very importantly pregnant moms can get vaccinated between 27-36 weeks of pregnancy.

Overall, be educated, well informed and vigilant. Continue to vaccinate the family and prevent death and severe complications, as well as, protect the community from harm. Be an advocate for vaccines.

– Dr. Farrah Lokey, Pediatrician

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