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whooping cough

November 11, 2015 - 1:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in pertussis, whooping cough, Public Health.

Press release from Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments:

Have you and your loved ones been vaccinated against pertussis, more commonly known as, whooping cough? If so, are you still up-to-date or need a booster? If you’re unsure or need a booster it’s time to call your primary care provider.

Whooping cough is a serious and very contagious respiratory disease that can cause long, severe coughing spells and the characteristic “whooping” sound that follows when a person gasps for air. (Click whooping cough sound to hear for yourself or visit http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/materials/everyone.html). It can present like a common cold at first, but after one or two weeks a person is overcome with coughing spells so violent it likely interferes with eating, drinking and even breathing.

The bacterium is found in the mouth, nose and throat and is spread from person to person by direct contact with mucus or droplets from the infected individual(s). These episodes may occur for one to two months and are more frequent at night.

Currently, Public Health nurses in Genesee and Wyoming counties are investigating confirmed cases of pertussis (whooping cough).

Preventing this highly contagious disease is everyone’s responsibility and the best protection is getting vaccinated! Whooping cough can take a toll on anyone, but it can be deadly for babies as they are especially fragile and are unable to receive the first dose of the vaccine until 2 months old. Severe complications from having whooping cough are more common among infants and young children and may include pneumonia, middle ear infection, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, syncope (temporary loss of consciousness), dehydration, seizures, encephalopathy (a disorder of the brain), apneic episodes (brief stop in breathing) and death. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms seek medical attention.

There are two versions of the vaccine depending on age:

  • DTap vaccine is given to children 2 months - 6 years old and protects against not only whooping cough but Tetanus and Diphtheria too.  Children should get 5 doses of the DTap vaccine, one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 15 - 18 months, between 4 - 6 years. 
  • Tdap vaccine is a booster shot that helps protect pre-teens and adults from the same diseases. The first, one-dose, Tdap booster should be given between 11 - 12 years old and every 10 years after that for greatest immunity. During pregnancy, women should get the Tdap vaccine as the antibodies will be passed to the baby, providing protection until they are old enough to receive their first DTap vaccine, and the mother will be protected against spreading whooping cough to her newborn.

According to the Immunization Action Coalition (www.immunize.org), after receiving the properly spaced primary series of DTap or Tdap, approximately 95 percent of people will have protective levels against Diphtheria and 100 percent will have protective levels against tetanus in their blood. Protection levels against pertussis (whooping cough) have an estimated range of 80 – 85 percent.

“Although DTap and Tdap are the best way to protect against whooping cough and potential complications the level of protection decreases over time just the same as Diphtheria and Tetanus ,” said Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services for Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments.

“It is also important to use germ prevention practices, too. Regular hand washing with soap is the best but hand sanitizer is a good option when on-the-go. Coughing and sneezing into a tissue or in the inside of your elbow, not sharing personal items, as well as disinfecting shared surfaces are good habits also.”

The single most effective control measure to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases is to maintain the highest possible level of immunization in the community. Babies, teens, adults, and pregnant women need to be vaccinated according to the CDC Recommended Immunization Schedules. Local Health departments and most pharmacies can also assist in providing vaccines although qualifications vary, please call for details.

For more information on DTap/Tdap or Health Department services contact:

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