Health Team

Whooping cough becoming a bigger health concern

Posted June 28, 2010
Updated June 30, 2010

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— Whooping cough is becoming a big health concern, particularly in California where they've seen more than 900 cases this year, up from 200 last year. Now, other states concerned about the spread.

With whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, very young children, under age 2 or 3, are at greatest risk. It has led to the deaths of five babies in California this year.

Having a cough is common, but whooping cough, especially in young children, is more severe.

“And what they do is they cough, cough, cough, cough and then they ‘whoooooop,’” said UNC Epidemiologist Dr. David Weber. “It's when they've been inspiring, after they've been coughing so much, they get that like ‘whooping’ sound.”

Weber, an infectious disease expert, says the cough becomes suspicious after it lasts more than three weeks. There may be vomiting after coughing and sometimes a fever. The disease is spread easily through families, in daycare environments and schools.

There has long been a vaccine for young children, a combination of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis called DTAP. Now a newer vaccine is formulated for an older population, called TDAP.

“And so we're going to protect those young infants that get sick by immunizing adolescents, particularly around 11 to 12 and again, all adults, particularly under the age of 60, particularly those who deal with young children should be immunized,” Weber said.

The vaccine wears off after time, so check with your doctor about when to get a booster shot. If you think your child has whooping cough, go to your doctor. There's a simple swab test that can be done and sent off to a lab with results in a few days.

“It's very accurate,” said WRAL Health Team’s Dr. Allen Mask. “If you've got it, you can be prescribed antibiotics. If given early enough, it can lessen the severity of the illness. Even if it doesn't lessen the severity, it does make them non-infectious. The antibiotics can even be prescribed to members of a family where the disease is present, so it can prevent illness.”


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  • thefensk Jul 6, 2010

    On the subject of immunization: our pediatrician was a wise older doctor. He acknowledged some of the concerns about immunizations but also said that he had been a doctor since before most of the immunizations became common. There were always risks of reactions to the shots, but the effects of the illnesses were well known. So his advice was take the slight risk to offset the almost certain effects of no immunization.

  • tarheel4life Jul 6, 2010

    " Now, other states concerned about the spread."

    sumbody forgot a word

  • readme Jul 6, 2010

    The main contributor to this issue is illegal immigration and the influx of unvaccinated children. 30 seconds on google will tell you this. Yet this article makes no mention of this. Why the curious ommission of a very relevant fact that might (god forbid) cause a little more right wing uproar against illegals? Come on folks, tell the whole story.

  • NC Reader Jul 1, 2010

    Actually, we can "thank" Dr. Andrew Wakefield and many others. Jenny McCarthy is not the only one responsible for this. Read the book Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. It is an excellent summary of the money and the flawed science behind the anti-vaccination movement.

  • Leonardo Jul 1, 2010

    We can thank anti-science people like Jenny McCarthy who keep spewing long-ago-disproved claims about links between vaccines and autism. What did you think was going to happen when people stopped taking vaccines? Thanks Jenny!

  • mark42 Jun 30, 2010

    Problem is that it was not eradicated only reduced. Our daughter (now 25) had whooping cough at about three months, just before her first DPT shot. Never had the "whoop", but would cough and then stop breathing and then her heart rate would drop. Never required cpr, just a gentle shake to "wake her up". But spent a week at Duke intensive care, two weeks on the floor and two months on a monitor at home. Most of what we have heard about the return has been because of higher numbers of people choosing not to immunize their children.

  • BuglessDuster Jun 30, 2010

    Lots of things like whooping cough, bed bugs, etc. that were once eradicated from this country are making a comeback.

  • thefensk Jun 29, 2010

    It is a freaky thing to have as an adult so I can see why it is a concern for young children. You can't breath and you can panic and make it even worse. Even if you suspect it ... get help immediately.