Whooping Cough as We Haven’t Seen it Since 1959
by Sally Jones
Whooping Cough Is Vaccine-PreventableA record 18,000 whooping cough cases have been reported to the CDC so far this year - that's twice the number compared to this time last year. If this mid-year trend continues we could be looking at rates of whooping cough the likes of which we haven't seen since 1959.
Like measles, whooping cough (also called pertussis) is highly contagious, with up to 90 percent of susceptible people developing the disease after exposure to the bacteria, Bordatella, which is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory mucus discharges of infected people. The illness begins like any common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, mild cough and perhaps fever. But after 1-2 weeks, prolonged coughing sets in and can last for many weeks, with spasms of severe coughing, whooping and vomiting. The cough is often described as "seal-like".
The disease is vaccine-preventable, however, the vaccine wears off after about 10 years, so a booster shot of the new combination vaccine, called Tdap is recommended at age 11 or 12 and for adults who never received a booster.
Although pertussis is usually not fatal in teens and adults, it can be deadly in young children and infants.
You can get vaccine recommendations by age on your iPhone and track vaccines for all family members on HealthyWomen's Family Health Record Keeper and Vaccination Tracker app.