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Friday, August 31, 2012

What is Pertussis (Whooping Cough)?

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, also called Whooping Cough, is caused by a bacterial infection that affects your respiratory tract.  The common symptoms are constant coughing spells that can cause infants and children to have a hard time breathing, eating, and drinking.  The coughing spells can last for weeks leading to future problems such as pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and possible death.

How can I protect my child from getting Pertussis?

Your child can be protected from the Pertussis bacteria by staying up to date with vaccines.  The DTaP vaccine contains the Pertussis component to protect your child.  There are a total of 5 doses for DTaP usually given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4 years of age; be sure to schedule current physicals and keep your children immunized! 

Tdap is recommended for children age 11.  This vaccine is a single dose and protects from the Pertussis bacteria.  Be sure your child has completed this requirement before starting school.

Now what about the Pertussis outbreak?

Pertussis outbreaks are common and can happen within middle and high schools.  This happens due to the fade of protection from childhood vaccines as well as from unvaccinated children.  The best way to protect your child is to be sure they are up to date on vaccines.  They will have completed all 5 doses of DTaP and the Tdap at age 11.

How does it spread and what are the signs?

Pertussis is highly contagious and spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact with others who are infected.  It can start out with common cold symptoms such as a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and mild cough and fever.  As the bacteria progresses through the respiratory tract, it can lead to a violent and constant coughing with a  "whopping sound" heard during the cough.  Infants may have pauses in breathing called apnea.

Call the office today if you are unsure about your child's immunizations.  Schedule current physicals, get vaccinated, and keep your infants and children away from those who have a cough and cold.

Check out this link from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) for more information:

 Would you like to see a video and hear auditory examples of what whopping cough sounds like?  Click the link to access the information provided by ABC News:

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