Department of Health Services (DSHS) projections show the number of people who will get sick with Pertussis (Whooping Cough) this year could reach its highest level in more than 50 years. A bacterial infection that often starts with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough, Pertussis produces severe coughing that can last for several weeks. Coughing fits may be followed by vomiting or a “whooping” sound, which is why the disease is also called “whooping cough.” Dogs don’t get Pertussis. But they can get Kennel Cough, which is pretty serious.
What may seem like the start of a common cold could be the serious symptoms of whooping cough.At the start, typical symptoms of pertussis include runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and possibly mild cough or fever. But, after 1-2 weeks of these symptoms, severe coughing can begin and continue for weeks. Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, which tends to produce a “whooping” sound between coughs, although this sound can be absent or minimal in infants. Sounds a little like woofing, to me.
Infectious Disease Medical Officer for the Texas Department of Health Services, Dr. Lisa Cornelius, said the situation is alarming. “Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies. So people should take it seriously.” One of the reasons the incidences of Whooping Cough have increased is because people are opting to keep their kids from getting the Tdap booster. This could be a costly mistake.
The reported incidence of infant pertussis in the United States has increased almost 17 times since 1979. More than 2,000 pertussis cases have been reported in the United States so far this year. Health officials predict the total number of cases will eventually surpass the previous high of 3,358 cases, reported in 2009.
To better protect babies, pregnant women should consider being vaccinated during every pregnancy—preferably between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This helps protect the baby before he or she can start the vaccination series at 2 months old and helps keep the mother from getting sick and infecting the baby. Fathers, siblings, extended family members, medical providers and others who will be around newborns should also be vaccinated.
Many babies get whooping cough from adults or older brothers or sisters who don’t even know they have been infected with the disease. While symptoms are usually milder in teens and adults, pertussis can be life threatening for babies because of the risk of apnea, an interruption in breathing. Pertussis spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. People with pertussis are most contagious while they have cold-like symptoms and during the first two weeks after they start coughing.
Anyone with an unexplained, prolonged cough or who has had close contact with a person with pertussis should contact their health care provider. Early diagnosis and treatment may reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the contagious period. Doctors who suspect a pertussis infection are required to report it to their local health department within one working day. Patients who have pertussis should not go back to work or school until they’ve completed five days of antibiotic treatment.
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