Pertussis is a vaccine preventable disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella Pertussis. Symptoms start with a runny nose, mild fever and mild cough, similar to that of a cold and progress to severe spasms of coughing that can interfere with eating, drinking and breathing. This cough has a characteristic high-pitched “whoop”, which is more common in children. Coughing attacks occur more frequently at night and last for several weeks.
Pertussis is spread by coughing and sneezing and is highly contagious. Prevention of secondary requires household and other close contacts being treated with the same antibiotic therapeutic intervention. It is important that those individuals with cough illnesses with unknown origin stay away from pregnant women and babies under the ages of 6 months. Children with confirmed Pertussis should be excluded from school until five days of antibiotic therapy have been administered.
Although most people recover, complications of Pertussis can be severe. Those at greatest risk for complications are the very young, the elderly and those with health issues impacting their immune system.
As a vaccine preventable disease, children should receive the vaccination to prevent infection with Pertussis at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months and again between the ages of 4 and 6 years of age. The protection from the vaccine does wear off within 5-10 years of vaccination so, pre-teens, 11-12 year olds are recommended to receive a booster vaccination. Adults through age 64 should also boost their decreasing immunity by receiving the combined vaccination for tetanus, diphtheria and Pertussis.
According to Dee Dunnett, Director of the Center for Health Protection and Promotion, “The best way to prevent Pertussis is to vaccinate all children on time, while everyone should avoid close contact with others who are coughing, wash their hands often, cover their cough, stay at home if ill and seek medical attention if Pertussis-like symptoms develop or if you have been exposed to someone with Pertussis”. Irrespective of vaccination status, anyone exposed to Pertussis should seek treatment for the infection.
For more information on Pertussis, log onto the Winnebago County Health Department website at: www.wchd.org.