So far in 2010 there have been almost 6000 probable or confirmed cases of whooping cough (pertussis) in California, and they have been responsible for the deaths of ten infants (newborns) so far.
Normally, doctors recommend that infants receive the whooping cough vaccine at 2 months, but there is a growing trend to not vaccinate children, and it is centered in Southern California. Vaccination, more than just stopping the individual from getting sick, protects those who cannot be vaccinated, such as newborns and children with weaker immune systems due to childhood diseases like cancer. When a community is vaccinated, disease cannot spread into and effect the weaker links, which is why schools and daycares require proof of vaccination.
Many parents are choosing not to vaccinate because of their concerns for the preservatives in vaccinations, and because there is a (controversial) link between vaccinations and the rise of certain disorders like Autism.
However, when it comes to deadly, highly contagious diseases, it is best to vaccinate, as this story illustrates. If you’re worried about shooting preservatives into your baby, the best option is to talk to your doctor about spreading out vaccinations so that the baby’s system can process them, rather than giving them all at once (which, according to the counter argument, is less traumatic).
The whooping cough vaccine can wear off, and it is suspected that the outbreak is partially caused in part by adults catching pertussis without realizing it and spreading it to children. Traditionally, the disease mainly affected children, but the whooping cough vaccine has greatly reduced those numbers, as well as those who die from it (from tens of thousands to less than 30 per year).
Whooping cough is a bacterial respiratory infection that is spread during the violent bouts of coughing the disease is known for. Initial signs of whooping cough may appear up to 3 weeks after exposure, and start as a cold, including a runny nose, sneezing, and a fever.
As whooping cough progresses the coughing can be so intense that it deprives you of an opportunity to breath (turning you red or blue), until finally, with a “whooping” noise, you inhale. Because the coughing is so severe, damage to the lungs and windpipe may cause other symptoms, such as difficulty eating or drinking. Vomiting is also a possible side-effect due to the violence the coughing causes.
Not everyone (especially adults) with pertussis will experience the whooping cough, so if you are sick with a lasting cough, or if you’ve been having trouble breathing, take extra care to avoid spreading the disease to others and see a doctor for a proper diagnoses. If you’ve been around an infected person for a good portion of the day (as in a daycare, school, or at home) you have an 80% chance of infection.
Although it is rare for anyone but infants to die of whooping cough, the disease can be very serious, progressing into pneumonia, and may cause permanent disability. The most severe part of the disease (coughing) can last a month or more, and it may take several more months to fully recover.
Prevention, as always, revolves around having a strong immune system paired with good hygiene (the way it spreads is from hand-to-hand-to-mouth/nose/eyes).
Treatment should revolve around rest, and a close watch for dehydration. High humidity, as from a humidifier is recommended. Hospitalization may be required so that small children receive around the clock medical observation, and so that mucus build-up can be removed for easier breathing. The sooner the signs of whooping cough are recognized and treatment sought, the better the prognosis.
What is your standpoint on the anti-vaccine movement? Have you ever had a disease like whooping cough? What do you do to avoid catching contagious diseases during the more vulnerable winter months?