What's the deal with whooping cough?

Article Date: Oct 5, 2012

You’ve read the news stories and seen the commercials urging you to get vaccinated – but what is with all the hoopla over whooping cough?


**statistics in this video are not current, please refer to information below for 2012 incidence

Sarah Broadhead, M.D., a pediatrician with Alegent Creighton Clinic Pediatric Express Care, explains that whooping cough – or pertussis – is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. "That cough can happen in episodes where the person needs to take a deep breath that sounds like a, ‘whoop’," Dr. Broadhead says. Infants and children are at greatest risk, especially for severe cases.

2012 has been a particularly rough year for whooping cough. The Centers for Disease Control notes that 46 states have already seen increases over last year; infection rates have tripled in Nebraska and Iowa. Dr. Broadhead confirms the trend – she’s seen more cases this year than ever before.

Listen to Whooping Cough

How can you keep yourself and your family safe from this infection?

  1. Immunize, immunize, immunize. "Household contacts, most often the mother, are usually the source of whooping cough for young infants," she explains. "Babies receive immunization in their DTaP series and pre-teens and young adults now receive immunization with TDaP." Dr. Broadhead recommends adults who have not had a TDaP get one as soon as possible, especially if they plan to be around infants as it can take at least two weeks for the vaccination to take effect.

  2. Recognize the signs. This infection has three distinct stages. The first looks a lot like a common cold: runny nose, low-grade fever, and possibly a mild cough. This can last from one to two weeks, and is the time when you’re most contagious. The second stage lasts from one to six weeks and is marked by fits of violent coughing followed by the "whoop" sound. Finally, the third stage can last another two to three weeks as you gradually recover. "During this stage, infants can be more susceptible to other respiratory infections," Dr. Broadhead warns.

  3. Keep infants away from infected people. Because it just makes sense.

Dr. Broadhead says that early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment with antibiotics are keys to prevent the spread of whooping cough. If you believe your child has been infected, make an appointment with his physician; or, if it’s an evening or weekend, put your mind at ease with a trip to Alegent Creighton Clinic Pediatric Express Care at Bergan Mercy Medical Center. It’s an urgent care center open long after most clinics close, staffed by board-certified pediatricians, and designed with children’s comfort in mind.


Reader Comments
Posted: Oct 9 2012 11:52 AM CST by Mary Stevens

I am on week 6 being ill-last week I went to a lung doctor--he did a deep nasal swab and started me on 3 doses of zithromax 500 mg each, which needs to be repeated in 10 days, yesterday morning the doctor called and said I definitely have Pertussis. The first couple of weeks various doctors were treating me with bronchitis. Everyone get your immunizations--thank God I haven't been around little babies.




Posted: Oct 9 2012 6:03 PM CST by Carol Maguire

Alegent Creighton Health supports free Early Childhood Immunization Clinics which are held weekly at the Midlands One Professional Center in Papillion for eligible children 0-18 years old. An eligible child is entrolled in Medicaid, uninsured or underinsured (has health insurance, but vaccines are not covered). Call 402-593-3222 to make an appointment or for any questions.




Posted: Oct 9 2012 7:16 PM CST by Shantae King

This is the 10 week of my having the very annoying whooping cough due to being misdiagnosed twice and finally on the 3rd doctors visit I was treated for Pertussis. I was first I was treated for a nasal drip that made me cough, then bronchitis. Finally I was given zithromax, tussenex with hydrocodone, and prednisone for about 6 weeks because it had gotten so bad. Finally I have some relief. Thank GOD I was not around babies but,my children did catch the cough but, since their shots were more current than mine. It went away faster. I mean we still cough but, it is so much better.




Posted: Oct 10 2012 9:46 AM CST by susan stogdill

I have an allergic reation to the tetanus vaccine and have been advised not to receive further tetanus injections. I have been unable to find a source for pertussis vaccine alone. Any ideas?




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Related Links
Pediatric Express Care

Sarah Broadhead, M.D.

A parent's guide to vaccines