Guard Yourself: Whooping Cough Makes its Return

Do you have a cough that makes you think you might hack up a lung? It might not be your run-of-the-mill cough and cold, and it might be time to see a physician to have that looked at. Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is making a bit of a comeback. The Center for Disease Control defines whooping cough as a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes a violent cough making it hard to breath, causing deep breaths and a trademark “whooping” noise when you inhale.

The disease is most dangerous to small children, specifically infants. The CDC says that it can be fatal for infants, and more than 50 percent of infants who contract whooping cough must be hospitalized. Immunizations can help prevent contraction of whooping cough for infants and small children, but it’s important for teenagers and adults to get immunized as well if they have infants or small children living with them.

This past summer, Pierce County saw a spike in whooping cough illnesses. According to Nigel Turner, director of communicable disease for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, pertussis is cyclical and becomes prevalent every few years. Unfortunately, more and more people are choosing to avoid vaccinations, and there is potential for a rise in many preventable diseases that are dangerous to young children.

“We can protect infants from pertussis by making sure they are immunized on schedule and also by making sure the people close to them (parents, siblings, grandparents, and child care providers) are immunized, too. High levels of immunization in the community, or ‘community immunity’ help to prevent outbreaks and makes our county a healthier place to live,” Turner said.

Consult your physician and child’s pediatrician for more information about whooping cough and immunizations.

About Immunizations

Nigel Turner, director of communicable disease for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, on whooping cough immunizations:

All infants should receive DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis immunization) at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, followed by a booster at age 15-18 months and another booster at 4-6 years. Tdap immunizations (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, in different amounts than the baby shots) are readily available for adolescents and adults. Right now, Tdap is recommended as a one-time dose for adults and adolescents who have completed their primary childhood series. The pertussis component of the vaccine is about 85 percent effective in preventing pertussis. Immunity from pertussis vaccines received in infancy and early childhood decreases over time, and by age 10, children have very little immunity left from the vaccines they received earlier in life. Vaccines can be given at the same time as a flu shot. Ask your healthcare provider what is best for you.

Get your coupon for a free immuinization from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in English or Spanish.

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