Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, has been making its way around. Dr. Jacqueline Sosa, an infectious disease pediatrician at McClane’s Children hospital in Temple, gave insight on the specific cause of the sudden outbreak.
“Over the last 10 years to 20 years, we have been seeing every three to five years an increase in pertussis,” Dr. Sosa said. “We think we are seeing even more this year than in previous uprisings because we are testing for it more and our tests are better to diagnose the disease.”
Pertussis symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for a normal cold in the beginning stages. Once the more specified symptoms appear, getting treatment is important.
“There are two stages of pertussis,” she said. “The first stage is just mild cold symptoms that you wouldn’t be able to differentiate from just a normal cold. So it’s just runny nose, congestion, maybe a very mild cough and little or no fever. But then after two weeks of that, the cough starts. The cough can last six to 10 weeks. The cough is so severe it can cause broken ribs and loss of sleep.”
Anyone can get pertussis, but children often suffer more severe symptoms when battling it.
“In babies, at least 50 percent of the babies under the age of 1 if they get pertussis have to be admitted to the hospital to save their life,” Dr. Sosa said. “About 1 to 2 percent who are admitted to the hospital are going to die of pertussis. That’s not counting the kids that die from apnea or stopping breathing at home.”
Throughout Texas this season, there have been nearly 2,000 cases reported, including two deaths. But so far there’s only been one confirmed case reported to the Bell County Health Department.
Dr. Sosa explained what people can do to prevent not only the progression of the disease, but to try and avoid it altogether.
“You can get pertussis if you have a vaccine, but it’s very mild and you’ll never have that long, horrible cough,” Sosa said. “It might just seem like a bad cold to you. But if you get pertussis and you’re not vaccinated then you get the full blown pertussis and you’re going to pass it on to people around you.”
Pertussis gets its nickname from the whooping sound that people, especially children, make after trying to catch their breath from coughing as a result of pertussis. People such as healthcare staff and day care workers are encouraged to get vaccinated for pertussis. Adults should get a booster vaccination every 10 years. Children should be vaccinated at 2, 4, 6, 15-18 months and 4-6 years, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Contact your primary care doctor or local pharmacy to get more information on how to receive your vaccination to keep yourself and those around you safe.