About every 3-5 years, there is a surge in whooping cough (pertussis) cases. And, unfortunately, it looks like 2010 may be a big year for this little bug. California is reporting triple the amount of cases this year since January and 4 infant deaths. So what is this disease? Whooping cough is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. When the bacteria infects someone, it attaches itself to the hairlike structures (cilia) in the lining of the airways, and makes a toxin that paralyzes the cilia. Without those cilia doing their job, the airways get swollen and the lungs can't clear secretions. Whooping cough starts out looking like a cold for the first two weeks. Then the coughing spasms start and can last for MONTHS. People have trouble catching their breath at the end of the coughing spasms, and some people make a "whooping" noise as they try to gasp for air.Babies under a year of age (particularly under six months) are at the greatest risk from this infection. They may stop breathing with the coughing spasms or die from complications such as pneumonia. And, once a child has whooping cough, there is usually not a whole lot doctors can do to stop the progression of the disease. Bottom line: It's definitely not a disease you'd want your child to get.Babies routinely get a vaccination to protect against whooping cough, but they cannot get their first dose until they are 2 months old. And, they don't have decent protection until they have received at least 3 doses of the vaccine (at 6 months of age). So, how do we protect these little ones who are the most vulnerable to this infectious disease?It's called cocooning. The concept: Protect those who are in contact with the baby, and then the baby will not be exposed. That means you, Mom, Dad, sister, brother, Grandma, Grandpa, and babysitters. If you are under 65 years old and haven't received a tetanus shot since 2005, you need to get a tetanus shot that now includes whooping cough (pertussis) protection. It's called Tdap. It's best to get vaccinated at least four weeks before coming in contact with an infant.
If you are pregnant, you can receive a Tdap vaccine after delivery. And, if you have any inkling that you might want to become pregnant in the near or far future...get your Tdap now.