There has been a rise in reported cases of Whooping Cough (Pertussis) this year in California. Over 900 confirmed and over 600 suspected cases have been identified. 5 infants under 3 months of age have died of whooping cough. Pertussis symptoms usually start out like any other respiratory illness but 10 to 12 days later the coughing symptoms persist and become severe. The coughing spells end with the child taking a deep breath that sounds like a “whooping” sound. These coughing spells are severe enough to cause vomiting and loss of consciousness. Small infants can actually become apneic and may need to be monitored in the hospital. If treated early enough with erythromycin or similar antibiotics, the symptoms may not be as severe or last as long. However, many patients are diagnosed late and the coughing spells may last as long as 6 weeks.
Pertussis can be prevented with the routine childhood vaccination series starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age. There is also a booster Tetanus vaccine that contains Pertussis booster for older children and adults. There is a push now to vaccinate young mothers with the Pertussis booster to prevent the spread of Whooping Cough to their newborns. Speak to your doctor about vaccinating your child, any older children in the household and any adults against this potentially life-threatening illness.