Monday, December 10, 2012
By: Minnesota Dept. of Health
Another fitful night. A mom is awake, listening to her baby cough and trying to comfortÂ him. She will be too worried to sleep tonight. For the past four days, her baby has hadÂ trouble eating, drinking, and sleeping because of this awful cough. Tomorrow, she willÂ miss another day of work to care for him. She wonders when it will end. She is exhausted
and her baby is miserable. Unfortunately, the end will not come soon because this coughÂ is whooping cough, also called the â€ś100-day coughâ€ť because of its long duration.
Whooping cough â€“ or pertussis â€“ is a serious and very contagious respiratory disease that can cause long, violent coughing fits and the characteristic â€śwhoopingâ€ť sound thatÂ follows when a person gasps for air. It takes a toll on anyone, but for infants it can be deadly. This year alone, more than 3,500 people in Minnesota have been diagnosed withÂ whooping cough.
Fortunately, there are vaccines that can prevent whooping cough. The MinnesotaÂ Department of Health (MDH) recommends that infants and children get the childhoodÂ vaccine that includes protection against whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus (DTaP)Â at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 15 through 18 months of age. A booster of DTaP is
given at 4 through 6 years of age.
Because protection from DTaP fades over time, MDH recommends another dose ofÂ whooping cough vaccine, known as Tdap, for adolescents (ideally at 10-12 years) andÂ adults. Adults who did not receive Tdap as pre-teens should get a dose now. ByÂ protecting themselves, older children and adults can form a circle of protection aroundÂ the babies in their lives that may be too young to be fully protected by DTaP.
Whooping cough vaccines are very effective, but like all vaccines, not 100% effective.Â You can still get the disease even if youâ€™ve been vaccinated. Also, whooping cough oftenÂ goes undiagnosed since it usually starts with cold-like symptoms, but can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks or months. Unfortunately, someone may not even know they have whooping cough and unknowingly spread the disease to others,Â including babies.
If a doctor suspects whooping cough, a test can be done to confirm the diagnosis. If theÂ diagnosis is made early, antibiotics can be given to decrease the severity of symptomsÂ and prevent transmission. If you think your or your childâ€™s persistent cough is whoopingÂ cough, itâ€™s important to tell the doctor if you will be around an infant. If you think your infant has whooping cough, see a doctor immediately. Sometimes an infant wonâ€™t haveÂ the hallmark cough or whooping sound, so be alert to any difficulty breathing.
To learn more, visit MDHâ€™s pertussis website at www.health.state.mn.us/pertussis. YouÂ can also get information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionÂ (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/pertussis or 1-800-CDC-INFO.