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Whooping Cough


Pertussis



  • A bacterial infection that primarily affects the nose and throat.  It usually affects the respiratory tract of infants less than 2 years old.  This disease gets its name because patients with the disease make a "whooping" sound when they take a breath.

  • Symptoms usually develop 7-17 days after the initial infection by the bacteria.
  • Most patients who develop symptoms are under the age of 2.
  • Symptoms usually last about 6 weeks, and are divided into 3 stages:
    1. Stage 1 symptoms include sneezing, runny eyes, runny nose, loss of appetite, loss of energy, and nighttime coughing.
    2. Stage 2 symptoms include a series of rapid coughs followed by the "whoop" noise when the person tries to take in a breath.
    3. Stage 3 is the recovery phase in which the coughing is not as frequent or as severe.  This stage usually begins after about the 4th week.
  • Whooping cough is suspected in young patients with a cough lasting more than 2 weeks.

  • The cause is a bacterium called Bordetella Pertussis.  The bacterium is spread between people by respiratory droplets, which are produced when infected people cough or sneeze.  It can also be spread via contact with infected body fluids such as nasal secretions.

  • A diagnosis is made by growing the bacterium in samples of fluid taken from the nose and throat of the patient.
  • Other lab tests may show high white blood cell counts.

  • Regimen of erythromycin, 500 mg taken four times a day, helps decrease the length of infection and also may help decrease the severity of the coughing.

  • Immunization with the pertussis vaccine is recommended for all infants.
  • This vaccine is usually administered as a DTP (diphtheria, Tetanus, and pertussis) combined vaccine.
  • Infants and adults who have been exposed to others with the infection should take prophylactic antibiotics to prevent the development of infection.
  • Neither previous infection nor vaccination gives life-long immunity.
  • However, booster doses of the vaccine are not recommended after the age of 6, unless there is an outbreak of the infection.



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