Deadly Whooping Cough is Nothing to Sneeze at

stethascope

Once in a while, we have a major, widespread scare about a communicable disease. The whooping cough epidemic has risen to a level of concern.

The number of whooping cough (pertussis) cases reported so far this year is more than four times the number for the same period last year, and the state is on pace to have more cases in 2010 than in any year since 1958.

The disease causes people to cough so violently that it is hard to breathe. It is especially concerning because it’s highly contagious and infants are particularly vulnerable. Of the six deaths in California this year, five were infants under three months old; the sixth was a toddler.

Fortunately, we can protect ourselves, our families and our loved ones. Many of us were immunized during childhood, but neither the vaccine nor the illness provides lifetime immunity. The vaccine wears off by the time a child finishes middle school, so adolescents and adults need boosters.

Infants typically don’t have full immunity until they have had three shots (recommended at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months of age), so we protect them by immunizing the people around them. Most infants with whooping cough get the disease from their parents, so parents, family members and caregivers of infants should be re-vaccinated to provide a cocoon of protection around their babies.

Ask your doctor for the vaccine, or visit your local pharmacy (including those in supermarkets). Shasta County Public Health offers the vaccine for those who are unable to get it elsewhere.

As always, we encourage you to wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. This helps avoid the spread of numerous diseases, including whooping cough.

Questions about this or other health and wellness issues? Please visit www.shastahhsa.net. Wishing you good health this summer!

Symptoms of whooping cough:

  • – Starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks
  • – Weeks to months of severe coughing fits that end with a whooping sound when the person tries to catch his or her breath
  • – Person may vomit or become blue in the face with the cough
  • – Very young infants may not have much cough, but have trouble with breathing and feeding and have a high risk to end up in the hospital

About the vaccine:

  • Children need five doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) shot during routine childhood immunizations (at the ages of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 18 months, and a booster at 4 to 6 years old).
  • Ages 7-64 need one Tdap booster, then a tetanus-only (Td) booster every 10 years.

Donnell Ewert, MPH, is director of Shasta County Public Health. While at Wheaton College, he participated in the Human Needs and Global Resources program, which included a seven-month internship in Honduras – an experience that sparked his interest in public health. He earned his master’s degree from UCLA after evaluating a program that used goats to increase the nutritional intake of malnourished children. He worked briefly as a health educator with migrant farm workers in Virginia before becoming an epidemiologist for the health departments in Los Angeles and the state of Indiana. Donnell came to Shasta County Public Health as an epidemiologist in 1999, after doing humanitarian health work in Kazakhstan. He has been the department director since 2007. He and his wife, Mary, have two teenage daughters.

Avatar
, MPH, is director of Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency. While at Wheaton College, he participated in a Human Needs and Global Resources program, which included a seven-month internship in Honduras – an experience that sparked his interest in public health. He worked briefly as a health educator with migrant farm workers in Virginia before becoming an epidemiologist in Los Angeles and Indiana. He came to Shasta County Public Health as an epidemiologist in 1999, and became HHSA Director in November 2012. He and his wife, Mary, have two daughters.
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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Virginia says:

    Anyone who doesn't have their child immunized for whopping cough is not only a fool, but uncaring parent. So anyone who reads this article needs to be sure their child, their grandchild is immunized immediately. It can be life or death situation.

    I know very well, as I developed whopping cough when I was 7 years old in 1940. I almost died. I wouldn't wish it on the worse enemy. I remember when the priest was called because the doctors said there was nothing else they could do. I can still remember coughing so hard I couldn't catch my breath. It is not a fun disease!

    • Avatar Gracious Palmer says:

      Virginia, I, too, remember having whooping cough. I think the worse thing for me was that I was not allowed to attend school. My parents had to get my assignments from the teacher (I was in elementary school. 3rd or 4th grade, I think). I was not allowed to return to the classroom for over a month. And, of course, I did not understand that I was contagious and would infect the other children if I were in school.

      The cough was painful. I remember being sore and achy for it seemed hours after a coughing spell. The coughing seemed to go on forever.

      One positive from the time away from school…my mother and father taught me how to cook!

      Parents PLEASE get your children innoculated.

      • Avatar Virginia says:

        Wish I had only been out of school for maybe a about a month. I had shots 5 out of 7 days a week. That went on for 30 shots. Not sure what they were, but probably vitamins. Still hate needles! I know I was off from school much closer to 3 months. For the first many weeks, I was too sick to care about anything or anyone.

        Please people, get the Whopping Cough shot. Nor just children, but adults also.

  2. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Right On Virginia! The current rage where latter day hippie communists think they know more medicine than two centuries since Jenner's vaccine discovery endangers the very fabric of our society. Please follow the advice here and become a modern part of public and personal good health. Why do we throw ourselves back to Neanderthal times when we are supposed to be wiser, better?

  3. Avatar Bruce says:

    Right On Virginia! The current rage where latter day hippie communists think they know more medicine than two centuries since Jenner’s vaccine discovery endangers the very fabric of our society.

    Hippie communists? Randy, your slip is showing.

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I wonder if Whooping cough was the culprit in an out-break at my school last year. One co-worker broke a rib coughing. We made up a game about whose Dr. would do a test to find out what was wrong with any of us. Four patients. No tests. "It's probably just a flu virus."

  5. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    And for the record, not one doctor of any of any of my various co-workers tested their patients for swine flu. Any one of us would have liked to know if what we experienced was swine flu and had consequently built an immunity for the future and didn't need the vaccine.

  6. Avatar Bridgette Brick-Well says:

    Great article. One thing to remember is that whooping cough does not always have a "whoop" at the end, especially for adults. My husband brought it home from the ER and I had it for about 2 months, even after a couple of rounds of antibiotics. I never "whooped."

    Also, on the swine flu comment…..testing for swine flu is expensive and takes a week to cultivate and get the results….and it isn't always accurate. Therefore, it is of no benefit to the physician who must treat the patient today (not wait a week.) At Mercy, only patients who are admitted to the hospital with symptoms of swine flu are tested, and those tests are conducted to assist public health officials in knowing where the disease is active, not to assist the doctor or the patient. Getting the vaccine is always a person's best bet.

    Additionally, H1N1 (swine flu) is a virus and there is nothing a doctor can do for it. By going in to the ER or a clinic or health care provider's office, patients are only exposing others to this highly communicable disease.