Whooping Cough (Pertussis) has been declared as an epidemic in the state of California and there is no sign of this epidemic slowing down. Our office has been in close contact with The Alameda County Public Health Department so that we may offer the most appropriate advice and care to our patients. Here is a summary of what you need to know about pertussis:
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Among vaccine-preventable diseases, pertussis is one of the most commonly occurring ones in the United States.
Pertussis vaccines are very effective but not 100% effective. If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch this very contagious disease.
The disease starts like the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever. But, after 1–2 weeks, severe coughing begins. Infants and children with the disease cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. Pertussis is most severe for babies.
People with pertussis (whooping cough) usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. It takes 5-21 days after contact with an infected individual to show sign and symptom of illness.
The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. Patients who follow our recommended vaccination schedule usually receive the vaccine at 2, 4, 6, and 18 month of age. A fifth dose is given when a child enters school at 4–6 years of age. Since 2005, the booster dose of the tetanus vaccine received at ages11 and above has contained a pertussis component to help boost immunity to this disease.
Not all patients exposed to pertussis need to be treated. “Close contacts” usually need to be treated. According to Pubic Heath authorities close contacts are defined as “those who have had direct contact with respiratory, oral or nasal secretions from a symptomatic case, e.g., a cough or sneeze in the face, sharing food/eating utensils, kissing, performing a medical examination of the nose and throat, or sharing a confined space in a close proximity for a prolonged period of time (>1 hour) with a symptomatic case.”
The bottom line is:
- Pertussis (whooping cough) is most worrisome for infants less than one year of age, however, it can cause protracted and distressing illness for older children.
- In toddlers, adolescents and adults it can appear as normal “cold.”
- Children exposed at school or daycare need to be treated if they have been in close proximity to the affected person as defined above.
- If your child has been in close contact with someone diagnosed with pertussis your child may need to be treated. Please call our office for advice or to make an appointment.
During any epidemic, sometimes extra measures and various methodologies need to be taken into account to control the spread of the invading agent. Our office stays in close contact with the public health department to offer our patients the most up to date advice and care possible.
The following are excellent websites to educate yourself about whooping cough: