What do I need to know about whooping cough?
Dr. Neil Allen is an OB/GYN at Banner Health Clinic specializing in OB/GYN in Greeley.
Question: I’ve been hearing a lot about whooping cough lately. What is important for me to know?
Answer: Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract which causes severe coughing that often sounds like “whooping” and makes breathing difficult. It is extremely contagious, causes prolonged illness and coughing, and is especially dangerous to young children. In fact, more than half of infants and children under one year of age who contract the disease are hospitalized and more and more children in the United States are dying from pertussis.
But as dangerous as it is, whooping cough is completely preventable through vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend pregnant women receive the vaccine against whooping cough as a first line of defense for their newborn babies. The protection the fetus receives should last until the child begins receiving the recommended vaccine at age 2 months, 4 months and 6 months of age.
Symptoms and possible results of pertussis:
- Runny nose
- Slight fever
- Cough that ends with a “whooping” sound
- Uncontrollable coughing
- Difficulty breathing
- Permanent seizure disorder
- Brain damage due to lack of oxygen
All caregivers, or anyone who regularly comes in contact with children under 12 months of age, should also receive the vaccination. That means the fathers, siblings, primary care takers and grandparents.
So much is being said about whooping cough lately because the incidence of the disease has been increasing in the United States since 2000. It is the only vaccine-preventable disease that is resulting in an increased number of deaths in our country.
The pertussis vaccine has joined influenza and H1N1 influenza as recommended vaccinations during pregnancy. There is little risk associated with the vaccine, while the consequences of not getting it could be fatal to the fetus.
If you are pregnant or think you should be vaccinated for pertussis, please talk to your health care provider.