An often overlooked ailment has begun showing signs of a comeback in recent years as more and more cases of whooping cough are being reported in Kentucky and across the country.
According to the Center for Disease Control, whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an extremely contagious serious illness, particularly in infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated.
“There are more cases than we have seen in years,” Floyd County Health Department Director Thursa Sloan said.
Sloan said the illness has not been a problem in Floyd County so far, but adds, “it has been a real problem in pockets of Kentucky.”
Sloan recommends everyone should make sure their TDAP (tetanus, diptheria, pertusis) booster shots are up to date. “Everyone should go and get the shots. It’s out there.”
According to the CDC, pertussis can be a serious illness in infants, children and adults, adding that the disease begins as a common cold with runny nose or congestion, sneezing and the potential for a mild fever, but within a matter of a couple weeks, severe coughing can begin.
Whooping cough, is often described as a series of coughing fits which continues for weeks, causing violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs, forcing a hard inhalation with a loud “whooping” sound. In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there, but there may instead be life-threatening pauses in breathing (apnea).
Vaccinations is the key to avoiding the illness. The CDC says that to insure maximum protection infants and children should be vaccinated five times. The first three shots are given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, while the fourth shot is given at 15 through 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given when a child enters school, at 4 through 6 years of age.
It is recommended that women who are pregnant and were not previously vaccinated get one dose of Tdap during the third trimester or late second trimester – or immediately postpartum, before leaving the hospital or birthing center. According to the medical professionals with the CDC, a vaccination of TDAP during pregnancy allows maternal pertussis antibodies to transfer to the newborn, which should provide protection against pertussis in early life, before the baby starts getting DTaP vaccines. Tdap will also protect the mother at time of delivery, making her less likely to transmit pertussis to her infant.
According to to CDC statistics during the first half of 2012, there have been noticeable increases in the number of pertussis cases or pertusis outbreaks reported in most states. As of August 11, 46 states and Washington, D.C. have reported increases in disease, compared with the same time period in 2011.