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Pertussis, an old foe

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a potentially devastating bacterial infectious condition involving the human respiratory tract. The disease begins with mild upper respiratory symptoms similar to common cold (catarrhal stage) lasting an average of two weeks which progresses to paroxysms of cough (paroxysmal stage) characterized by inspiratory whoop. Subsequently the symptoms wane gradually over a few weeks (convalescent stage) to potentially months. The incubation period is 7-10 days. Fever is usually absent or minimal.

Whooping cough in infants younger than 6 months of age can be atypical with a short catarrhal stage, gagging, gasping or apnea as prominent early manifestations; absence of whoop; and prolonged convalescence. The disease can be severe in young infants particularly if unimmunized or preterm with case fatality rate of approximately 1%. The duration of classic pertussis is 6 to 10 weeks. Complications among infants can include pneumonia (22%), seizures (2%), encephalopathy (0.5%), and even sudden death. The illness in immunized children and adults can be mild and unrecognized. In adults the disease may only present with prolonged cough. Infected people are most contagious during the catarrhal stage and the first two weeks after cough onset.

Factors affecting the spread of whooping cough include...

Preventing Pertussis

We currently have a pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic occurring in Washington State. Infants under 6 months of age are particularly vulnerable but anyone, even if you are fully vaccinated, could potentially contract the disease and spread it.

(Is it really an epidemic? Yes: an epidemic (of a disease) affects many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.)

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Among vaccine-preventable diseases, pertussis is one of the most commonly occurring ones in the United States (CDC).

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

The early signs for pertussis are ...

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