Pertussis, more popularly known as whooping cough, is a respiratory tract illness characterized by violent coughing. It derives its common name, whooping cough, from the whoop sound produced when trying to inhale. This whoop sound is caused by the swelling and inflammation of the voice box that vibrates during rapid air inflow. The whoop sound is often not recognized in young children, but is clearly heard in teens and some adults.
Pertussis is caused by Bordetella pertussis, a bacteria that thrives in the throat, mouth, and nose. It is highly contagious as most individuals catch the disease by breathing in the bacteria when an infected person sneezes or coughs.
Who can be affected by pertussis?
Contrary to popular belief that this contagious disease affects only babies, pertussis can affect individuals of all ages. It is, however, most common among infants and young children. As previously mentioned, the whoop sound may not be recognized in infants and toddlers. They are, however, more likely to and more frequently violently cough, which may result to blue skin discoloration or cyanosis and cessation of breathing or apnea. Pertussis is dangerous among infants and young children. When not properly addressed, they are at risk for serious complications and may even cause death.
Teens and adults may also develop pertussis. It is more common than usually recognized, accounting for up to about 7% of adult sickness that causes coughing every year. Infected teens and adults are usually carriers of the pertussis bacteria, and the source of infection for infants and young children.
How do I know I have pertussis? How long does pertussis usually last?
As previously discussed, the common name whooping cough is from the sound an infected individual produces at the end of a violent cough, as he or she tries to inhale. In the early stages of pertussis, the symptoms resemble that of a common cold: nasal congestion and discharge, sneezing, dry cough, and mild fever. After one to two weeks, the cough becomes severe. There will be an increased frequency of bursts of rapid coughs. This violent coughing is ended by a long and effortful breathing in that is usually accompanied by a high-pitched whoop sound. Infected individuals may appear normal in between rapid and violent cough attacks, but during an attack, he or she may become cyanotic from lack of oxygen because of difficulty in breathing. Exhaustion, and sometimes even vomiting, usually follow attacks.
Although pertussis is usually milder in adults than in young children, the duration of the symptoms lasts just as long as in young children. Developing the symptoms after catching the infection can take up to three weeks. Bursts of rapid and violent coughing usually lasts around 1 to 6 weeks, but can last up to 10 weeks.
Is it possible to prevent pertussis?
Good news is, immunization with the pertussis vaccine can prevent the infection from Bordetella pertussis bacterium. For decades, pertussis vaccine immunization programs all over the world has been documented to successfully prevent infants from developing pertussis. In fact, in 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around 687,000 deaths from pertussis that were prevented.
Pertussis vaccine is usually given in combination with vaccines for tetanus and diphtheria. These vaccines include the DTaP administered to children and the Tdap given to teens and adults. The “p” in the mentioned vaccines stand for pertussis.
How much does a pertussis vaccine cost?
For best results and maximum protection, physicians recommended 5 DTaP shots for infants and young children. Teens and adults who had been previously immunized should get a Tdap booster, while those who had never been immunized should get a dose of Tdap vaccine. Pregnant women are very highly recommended to get the pertussis vaccine during each pregnancy, to give their child extra protection against.
Getting the pertussis vaccine prevents pertussis but does not guarantee a lifetime protection against the pertussis infection. Immunity to the Bordetella pertussis bacterium lessens after around 5 to 10 years after getting the pertussis vaccine. Thus, it is important to get the pertussis vaccine every after 10 years.
Pertussis vaccine usually cost around $30 to $50 per dose.
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