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What’s the big whoop about whooping cough?

Whooping cough or pertussis is characterized by a cough where the infected person makes a loud “whoop” sound after coughing.  Whooping cough is generally known as “a disease of childhood” because children tend to (but do not always) make a distinguishable “whooping” sound when coughing.  But whooping cough affects adults and children alike.

So, what’s the big whoop about whooping cough?

Even though most of us are vaccinated in early childhood, whooping cough is still prevalent in our community and it is highly contagious.  In fact, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced recently that they have identified an outbreak of whooping cough in the Triad.

As an adult, whooping cough is typically just a cough and is not a huge deal.  The problem comes when infected adults expose infants and young children to the illness.  Pertussis can be deadly for infants and young children who have not been fully vaccinated.  Little babies with pertusis can get apnea where they cough, cough, cough, stop breathing, turn blue and potentially die.

Up until recently pertussis vaccines were given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, before kindergarten and then a booster was given in 6th grade.  Now, the recommendation is for adults to get a single pertussis booster to ensure immunity in an effort to protect the children around them.  Ask your doctor about getting a booster today.

Vaccinate Your Baby Today has more information.

Amy Griffin, MD, is the medical director, of the WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department