Health Department

Pertussis (whooping cough)

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

Have you noticed lately all the news articles on whooping cough? Does it make you wonder why or what you should be doing to protect yourself, and if you have children what you should do for them?

In Independence, the Independence Health Department has seen a rise in the number of cases, which is significant enough to cause concern.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can literally leave you gasping for air after a coughing spell. Whooping cough can be disguised to some as a pesky cold with early symptoms of a runny nose, fever, and cough. These symptoms can last for two weeks before the coughing spells get worse.

Severe episodes of coughing can cause the person to have a hard time breathing (making a whooping sound or gasping sound) or cause the person to throw up. The excessive coughing spells typically last for 1 to 6 weeks, but can go on for 10 weeks or more. This disease can be very serious and according to the Center for Disease Control about 40% of infants wind up in the hospital due to pertussis.

People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease because adults and older children may not have the classic signs, such as the “whoop”.

You can protect yourself, young children, and infants by getting vaccinated. The recommended pertussis vaccine for infants and children is called DTaP, which protects against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Because vaccine protection fades with time, preteens, teens and adults are urged to get a booster that contains protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap).

Adults and teens who haven’t received the Tdap vaccine should get it. Getting vaccinated with Tdap at least two weeks before coming into close contact with an infant is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants, including grandparents.

If you would like to know more information about how to protect yourself from pertussis and where to get the vaccine please call the Independence Health Department at 325-7185.

*Information provided by the Center for Disease Control and Independence Health Department