Whooping Cough Epidemic – Should you be concerned?

It seems like every time you turn around, there is another medical concern being touted as another epidemic. That is usually because it turns out to be something concerning or serious. In this case, it is to inform you of the potential danger to a Whooping Cough Epidemic.

Whooping Cough has been linked to almost 20,000 cases this year in the United States. This is the number that has been reported to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. That is almost as much as the entire last year.

But this also means that a number of case are probably unreported.

Whooping Cough is caused by pertussis and the number of cases is the highest it has been in the last five decades. The bacteria involved is called: Bordetella pertussis. It is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing.

Symptoms begin very mild cold-like symptoms. But the symptoms usually don’t improve like expected over the next week or so. Soon the patient has developed a severe cough. The coughing fit turns into a violent cough that can last for weeks.

Children are especially affected. One reason is that they are in daycare or schools and are in close contact with other children. Another reason is that immunity isn’t yet complete.

So far it is believed that 9 babies have died from pertussis.

Whooping cough is largely preventable or so we like to think. There is a vaccination that when given decreased the risk of getting the disease. Babies receive the first dose around age 2 months. There are four more vaccinations before the age of 7 to get fully protected. But the vaccines are not perfect or offer 100% immunization. A booster shot may be given around ages 11 or 12 and that may help improve or increase immunity.

Recently it has been reviewed if the current children’s vaccination is strong enough after the 5 infections. It was changed in 1997 because the vaccination caused some swelling and fever. The side effects resulted in a change that may cause the beginnings of an epidemic.

Adults should consider getting a Tdap booster to help improve their immunity.

Looking back into history, in 2008 – Whooping Cough Epidemic killed 195,000 people worldwide. Obviously this affects areas where vaccinations are underused or under-available.

Whooping cough is a serious health risk – be cautious if you are around children often. If you are a health worker, keep this in mind as well.

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