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Whooping cough reemerges as a public health concern

Jenny Decker RN's picture

With more and more whooping cough cases being reported in California, Philadelphia, and now Washington with the death of an infant, whooping cough is reemerging as a public health concern for the nation. According to WebMD, the bacterial illness is the most common vaccine-preventable disease among children who are under the age of 5.

In California, over 3000 cases have been reported. Among them were 8 infant deaths, including a 1-month old boy in San Diego. other areas that are seeing a rise in whooping cough include Philadelphia and New York. The CDC cautions that outbreaks are not uncommon and occur throughout the year. However, with school beginning, California public health officials are warning parents that if their children are not vaccinated, they may not be able to attend school until they are. This is meant as a protection to those children not vaccinated because they are 75% to 100% as likely to become infected with the whooping cough.

Coming in contact with droplets of Bordetella pertussis

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Whooping cough is caused by the bacteria known as Bordetella pertussis. It is spread by coming in contact with droplets of Bordetella pertussis that are coughed out by a person that is infected with the bacteria. It can also be spread by contact on a recently contaminated hard surface.The bacteria thrive inside the respiratory passages, resulting in inflammation of the airway passages.

Adults and adolescents can become infected as well, even if they have been immunized against it. Immunity only lasts so long. However, the illness is most violent with children under 5, especially infants. There are precautions that the CDC recommends to prevent spread and to prevent getting the whooping cough. First of all is to receive a vaccination, even if you are an adult. Understand that even with the vaccination, there is not a 100% immunity.

If you suspect that you or your child may have whooping cough, call your doctor. If your child has been exposed, regardless of immunization status, you should have your child checked. Turning blue during a coughing spell, an uncontrolled fever that is still being treated with over-the-counter medication, or if your child cannot keep any solids or liquids down, call your doctor.