By Kelsey Givens
In 2012, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported there were more than 40,000 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, in the United States, resulting in nearly 20 deaths.
A bacterial disease, whooping cough mainly affects young children causing a noticeable cough with the recognizable “whooping” noise children can be heard making as the inhale after coughing.
Dr. Dheeresh Mamidi, a pediatrician with HealthCare Partners of Nevada, sat down with the Pahrump Valley Times to discuss how parents can prevent their children from getting the disease and how to stop the spread of it if someone in the family has contracted it.
What is whooping cough?
Whooping couch is mainly caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, and it comes in three stages, with each lasting up to two weeks. The initial stage usually shows up as only cold symptoms; runny nose, body aches, fever, but not much of a cough at that time. But the next phase is when they start having the typical cough, and it’s an excess of cough. They cough more at night and they have these episodes, about 10 or 15 in a 12-hour period, where they are coughing. And each time they cough, all of the kids have the typical whoop.
But in the younger kids mainly, you’ll notice a discoloration of the face, like redness and purple discoloration of the lips, which is a typical sign, especially in infants. The last stage is usually just a recovery phase where the cough slowly starts to go away.
When are children who contract the disease most contagious?
The first stage is usually when children are the most highly contagious. And the problem is many times it can be treated as just a cold and it can be missed until the next phase starts. But by that time they may have already passed it on to other kids.
There is a vaccine to prevent whooping cough, how important is that vaccine in preventing children from contracting pertussis?
Vaccination is very important because it is a preventable disease. The vaccinations are not 100 percent, but they do have pretty good preventive array.
Kids, as infants under 1-year-old, need to have three doses of it. And by 18 months actually, they typically have 4 doses. The there is a booster after age 4 that is before they start school and then another booster is typically given at 11 before they start middle school.
We also usually recommend the elders in the family, the adults, also get vaccinations, which is known as a TDAP.
Once a child has come down with whooping cough is there a way to treat it?
There is treatment for it if they get diagnosed initially and they can get started on antibiotics … Usually we advise the members of the family who are exposed to be treated as well.
Once it’s in the later stage though, even if they get the treatment, it may not completely cure it and it may lead to complications like pneumonia and hospitalizations especially for younger children and infants where they can’t get enough oxygen.
Besides vaccinating children, are there any other ways to prevent children from getting whooping cough?
Yes. Even pregnant women should be vaccinated because now the new guidelines recommend with each pregnancy after they’re at 27 weeks, they get the vaccine and the infant also gets some of the vaccination.
And more obvious prevention, like any other illness, is proper hand hygiene, always wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, cough onto your elbow and staying home if the child is sick.