At present it is estimated that whooping cough affects 48.5 million people worldwide each year, and results in almost 300,000 deaths. According to research, about a fifth of children seen by their doctors for persistent coughs may actually have whooping cough. Pertussis, known by its common name whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis.
What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
Symptoms are typically confused with the common cold and are worse at night, making whooping cough hard to diagnose. Symptoms usually start off very mild and develop into severe coughing fits later on. These coughing fits culminate in the distinct "whoop" sound upon inhalation, giving the cough its common name. The coughing stage can last six to eight weeks before getting better. For healthy adults, the cough is mostly just a nuisance. Conversely, for infants this cough can easily be deadly.
The symptoms of whooping cough include:
· Runny nose
· Nasal congestion
· Red, watery eyes
Can you prevent whooping cough?
Whooping cough is preventable with the vaccine, but it is still kills as many people as it does because the vaccine is not widely used everywhere – especially in developing countries. However even in the U.S., where the vaccine is widely used there have been several outbreaks in the last few years.
Because of the extremely long duration of the disease, prevention through vaccination is the primary defense against the bacterial infection. Whooping cough is also exceedingly infectious. It is estimated that contracts the cough will infect an average of 12 other people. Prevention is most important in young children, as the cough can be deadly for them. It is imperative to immunize young infants globally as to prevent further transmission of the disease, and make sure whooping cough epidemics do not become more common.
What can you do if you get whooping cough?
If you or someone you know is suffering from a persistent cough which lasts weeks, it is advisable to see your physician and make sure it is not pertussis. If you are suffering from whooping cough, unfortunately the disease must run its course and your body fight it off on its own. Many doctors will recommend antibiotics in order to shorten the duration of infectiousness, and prevent it from spreading to others. In addition to early prevention through vaccination, there are also booster shots of the vaccine. These are typically given to US adolescents at ages 11 or 12 to “boost” their original vaccination. The vaccine given to infants only provides protection for four to 12 years.