Tag Archives: current events

Whooping Cough

9 May

I live in Washington State, where we are experiencing an epidemic of pertussis (whooping cough). This is particularly scary for me because my child is an infant (the age group most at risk of death), and has not yet completed the DTaP series. What I find particularly difficult about this disease is that most people just present with symptoms that resemble the common cold, a lot of older children and adults may have mild cases that are dismissed as a cold with a persistent cough. You can go online and hear what the “whoop” sounds like, but there are many other symptoms, so the absence of that sound does not mean the absence of pertussis. And in infants, there is usually no whooping.

There is a treatment for pertussis, but prevention is paramount – especially for unvaccinated infants.

1. Children and Adults in contact with infants should be vaccinated. There is a TDaP booster for adults and older children. According to a study discussed on the CDC website, children who had never received a DTaP vaccine are eight times more likely of developing whooping cough than vaccinated children. Vaccination of people infants come in close contact with is called “cocooning”: most infants acquire pertussis through a member of the household, so it is important to protect those people around the infant in order to prevent the infant from acquiring pertussis.

2. Wash hands often. Pertussis is spread through coughing and sneezing, so hand washing (for 20 seconds, enough time to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) before preparing food and eating, as well as after coming in contact with other people, especially children is vital.

3. Limit exposure to high exposure areas. Especially for young infants, it might be necessary during an epidemic (like that in Washington State) to limit a child’s exposure by ensuring play dates are with vaccinated families, and staying away from play areas where there are a lot of children, particularly play areas inside and with toys that children can put in their mouths.

For more information, visit the CDC website.