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Texas is currently fighting a whooping cough epidemic, and even though cases have slowed down, the state is on pace to have the highest number of cases recorded in over 50 years.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been almost 2400 cases of whooping cough, and two deaths, in the state this year.
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough (or pertussis) is a respiratory infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. The hallmark symptom is uncontrollable, violent coughing which makes it hard for the patient to breath and elicits a whooping sound (gives the disease it’s name).
Is it contagious?
Yes, whooping cough is highly contagious. Patients with pertussis can spread it to others in the first 3 weeks of coughing if not treated with antibiotics. After they have been on antibiotics for 5 days, they can no longer spread the disease. Although the cough can last longer than 3 weeks, a person is no longer contagious after the third week.
What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
Early symptoms, which last about one to two weeks, are similar to a cold, and include a runny nose, low-grade fever, and cough. Later, patients can exhibit the uncontrollable cough and high pitched “whoops”, vomiting and exhaustion after coughing.
How do you test for whooping cough?
If you have symptoms suggestive of pertussis, a nasal swab is obtained and tested for the pertussis bacteria.
How can you prevent pertussis?
The Texas State Department of Health recommends the pertussis vaccination as the number one preventative measure against the disease. The recommended vaccine in the U.S. for whooping cough is DTaP, which is a combination vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The protection is delivered as a series of five shots, which are given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, between 15 and 18 months, and then before a child enters school at 4 to 6 years old.
Can you get pertussis even if you’ve had the vaccine?
Yes! The vaccination protection can fade over time, so you can get pertussis even if you were vaccinated against it. Therefore, it is recommended that preteens get a booster dose of another pertussis vaccine known as Tdap around 11 or 12 years old. Adults who did not get Tdap when they were younger, pregnant women not previously vaccinated with Tdap and adults over 65 who are often near infants are also recommended to get the Tdap shot.
Anyone of any age can get pertussis. However, it can be more serious in infants and people with suppressed immunity. The Texas State Department of Health recommends keeping infants and other people at higher risk of contracting the disease away from the ill.
This information is strictly an opinion of Dr. Prakash and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Dr. Chris Prakash is a contributing columnist and author of eParisExtra’s “The Doctor is In” column. He is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology Paris. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Oncology and Hematology and lives in Paris, TX with his wife and two children. You can reach him at (903) 785-0031 or Sucharu.firstname.lastname@example.org.