Pertussis (whooping cough)
What is pertussis (whooping cough)?
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a disease caused by bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) that live in the mouth, nose and throat. Pertussis can cause severe coughing, vomiting and troubles breathing. It is called whooping cough because it causes the infected person to make a loud "whooping" sound during a severe coughing spell. Pertussis usually affects children.
Who can get pertussis?
Anyone can get pertussis. People most at risk include:
- infants and young children
- adults who have weakened immune systems.
Pertussis is most severe in infants younger than 1 year old.
How is pertussis spread?
Pertussis can spread from person to person by direct contact with an infected person's saliva, sputum or nasal mucous. Pertussis can spread to an uninfected person by breathing air into which an infected person has coughed or sneezed.
A child with pertussis can spread the disease for about one week after exposure until about three weeks after the severe coughing starts.
What are the symptoms of pertussis?
Symptoms of pertussis include:
- sneezing, runny nose, fever and mild cough (like a cold)
- violent coughing spells that can lead to problems eating, drinking and breathing
- a "whooping" sound during a coughing spell
- vomiting after a coughing spell.
Coughing spells can last for weeks. It can take seven to 10 days from when the child is exposed until symptoms appear. Symptoms begin like the common cold. One to two weeks later the severe coughing spells begin. The coughing spells usually last one to six weeks but can last longer. After the coughing, recovery is about two to three weeks.
How is pertussis found?
The health care provider may do tests to identify the bacteria.
How is pertussis prevented (DTaP vaccine)?
The DTaP vaccine (shot) can prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The vaccine is made from the weakened or dead germs (or part of the germs) that cause those three diseases. These germs won't cause your child to get any of the three diseases. The vaccine helps him or her build antibodies, which destroy the vaccine germs. This helps protect your child against the disease.
How is pertussis treated?
Your health care provider will talk with you about how best to treat your or your child's case of pertussis. The treatment will depend on how severe the disease is. In general, antibiotics (medicine) are used to kill the bacteria.
What are the possible side effects of pertussis?
Pertussis can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death.
How long should infected people stay home from work or school?
Your child needs to stay home from school until he or she is no longer able to spread the disease. You need to stay home from work or school until you are no longer able to spread the disease.
Warren Shepard, MD, discusses why he has seen more cases of whooping cough in recent years. He also recalls when his son had pertussis.
We're seeing more whooping cough these days than every before or in years. Last year there were 1,400 cases in Minnesota. I think the primary reason is that people are just not getting vaccinated. There's a lot out there about people getting autism from vaccinations that has not been proven and people are reluctant to get these and when people don't get it, and then we also have more immigrants aren't getting shots, they come in and unfortunately don't get into the healthcare system at the right time to get the shots and I suppose probably the medical profession with the things not appearing as much has been a little lax and has not been pushing the shots.
Whooping cough or pertussis is not a pleasant thing to have. Actually my son had it about five years ago. It's just a terrible nasty sounding barky cough and the person who has it is not comfortable and the people around him are not happy to have to listen to it. And people can get quite sick. The younger you are when you get it or get exposed to it, people actually can die from it. So besides the inconvenience part, there are health reasons to not get pertussis.
In terms of who should get the booster shot, it's the Tdap shot, we give it to adolescents, they're usually due to get a tetanus shot somewhere in there anyway, and we're giving them one that actually has the diphtheria booster in it. We're also giving it to people have had a tetanus shot without diphtheria anytime, whether it's been 10 years or not, and older people we're also giving it to them to prevent their getting exposed to it. We're also giving it to women late in pregnancy and especially if they're going to be exposed to infants less than a year old.
If you have an infant and you want to prevent them from getting the whooping cough, first of all, get it yourself, be a good parent and make sure you're not giving it to them. And then in crowds, certainly pay attention to anything you may hear if you're in a crowd and a week or two later you find perhaps there was someone there who had it then you'd have an index of suspicion that you're on child starts coughing could have it as well.
We advise getting the shot when you remember and when you are able and certainly when you get the flu shot you can get the Tdap booster as well. Just as with the flu vaccine, the Tdap is offered at all the Allina Health clinics. I don't think, however, you will find it at Target or Walmart, so it's something you will have to specially ask about.