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Whooping Cough

child coughing  

Public health experts are seeing more cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis. 

Parents, familes and people who work with children are being urged to get immunized against this highly contagious disease that can be fatal to children. 

What is it
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection of the respiratory system. It's characterized by severe coughing spells that end in a "whooping" sound when the person breathes in.

Who gets it:

  • It mainly affects infants younger than six months old and kids 11 to 18 years old whose immunity has faded.
  • For infants, whooping cough can be fatal
  • Adults and adolescents with whooping cough may have milder or different symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms
The first symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold:

  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • mild cough
  • low-grade fever

After about one to two weeks, the cough becomes coughing spells. During a coughing spell, which can last for more than a minute, a child may turn red or purple. At the end of a spell, a child may make a  whooping sound or may vomit. Between spells, the child usually feels well.

Prevention
Whooping cough can be prevented with the pertussis vaccine, which is part of the DTaP immunization. DTaP immunizations are routinely given before a child's sixth birthday.

It is also recommended that kids ages 11-18 get a booster shot of the new combination vaccine (called Tdap),

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Experts believe that up to 80 percent of nonimmunized family members will develop whooping cough if they live in the same house as someone who has the infection. For this reason, anyone who comes into close contact with someone who has pertussis should receive antibiotics to prevent spread of the disease.

Call the doctor if you suspect that your child has whooping cough or has been exposed to someone with whooping cough, even if your child has already received all scheduled pertussis immunizations.

When to call the doctor
Your child should be examined by a doctor if he or she has prolonged coughing spells, especially if these spells:

  • make your child turn red or purple
  • are followed by vomiting
  • are accompanied by a whooping sound when your child breathes in after coughing

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