Pertussis Problems Persist
May 03, 2012

Not enough can be done to ensure people are educated about the dangers of pertussis (also known as whooping cough).  That’s why I wanted to highlight a few of this week’s articles that focus on issues related to pertussis.

Brady’s Battle Proves Pertussis Can Present in Unexpected Ways

CommonHealth writer, Rachel Zimmerman, was familiar with Brady’s story that we highlighted on Shot of Prevention last week.  She recently wrote an article (located here) which addresses specific questions regarding whooping cough with detailed responses from the CDC.  She also included highlights from a recent interview she conducted with Dr. Ben Kruskal, a pediatrician and director of infection control and travel medicine at Harvard Vanguard and director of infectious diseases at Atrius Health.   When she asked what clinicians should do when confronted with infants like Brady, who had contracted pertussis, but didn’t exhibit the “classic” violent cough or whooping sound, Dr. Kruskal said this:

“Actually it turns out that most people who have whooping cough don’t show the classic signs of whooping cough. It’s really a substantial minority but still a minority of people who have it who have the classic clusters of cough that are so closely spaced that the patient has to take in this deep breath at the end of this cluster which produces the characteristic whoop.”

Accurate Diagnosis of Pertussis is Challenging

It’s probable that many cases of pertussis go undiagnosed and unreported, which  makes this particular disease difficult to identify and therefore difficult to manage.  Since this particular bacterial infection often presents like a bad cold many people simply don’t realize they are infected, and they unknowingly expose others to this contagious disease.  While the symptoms may linger, which is why pertussis is often referred to as “the 100 day cough”, most people will eventually recover.  However, whooping cough is especially devastating for infants and young children, whose small bodies have difficulty fighting off the persistent bacteria.
So when should you seek help for a cough?  You’ll want to bookmark today’s post on the PKIDS (Parent’s of Kids with Infectious Diseases) blog.  It has been written by Dr. Kristen Feemster, who is not only an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Pereleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, but also an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  She provides a thorough analysis of pertussis to include a detailed background of the disease, what symptoms parents should look for in infants, young children, adolescents and adults, as well as details about testing.

Pertussis Outbreaks Are Being Seen Throughout the Country

Unfortunately, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, Illinois, Arizona and Washington are all states facing whooping cough outbreaks right now.  The CDC indicates that in 2010, there were 27,550 cases of pertussis cases reported and certainly many more that went unreported.  In 2011, several states suffered with concerning pertussis outbreaks, to include the state of California where several infants died.  And today, in the states that are seeing these current outbreaks, the numbers of pertussis cases are already much higher than they were at this time last year.
Week after week there are multiple articles in these areas trying to garner attention among residents regarding this public health concern.  You can do your part by sharing information with friends and family and especially expectant parents.  We want to ensure that no other child suffers as Brady did.  Or Carter. Or Callie.  Or Brie.  Or the many other infants who have lost their battle with pertussis.  You can choose from several different pertussis stories currently featured on the Shot By Shot website or check out this helpful fact sheet on Vaccinate Your Baby.  Whatever you do, please help us get the word out about adolescent and adult Tdap boosters and the importance of cocooning young children.  The more who know the more potential lives we can save.


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