Whooping cough is an illness caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It’s spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. After a one to two week incubation period, symptoms including cough and shortness of breath develop. The illness can last six weeks or longer, and those infected are contagious for the duration of the illness. While whooping cough is a vaccine preventable disease, the number of cases has drastically increased, including recent outbreaks throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The Whooping Cough Outbreak
Outbreaks of whooping cough are occurring simultaneously throughout the U.S. and Canada. From small towns to medium cities and metropolises, whooping cough seems to be everywhere. Those who are becoming ill range from migrant farm workers in Mattawa, WA to children in California or adults in Boston and throughout Canada.
Why Are There So Many Whooping Cough Cases?
Many communities have seen more cases this year than were reported in the entire U.S. or Canada just a few years ago. A less effective vaccine, a reduction in childhood vaccination rates as well as a population of adults who were never vaccinated against whooping cough make up several of the reasons why there are currently so many cases of the disease in the U.S. and Canada. Public health officials analyzing vaccination rates have found that personal belief exemption rates for opposition to vaccination is perhaps the leading cause of the increase in cases of the disease. Adults may show just a mild cough or even no symptoms, yet they can spread the disease to infants and children, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
How to Protect Yourself Against Whooping Cough
The best way to protect yourself, your family and those you come into contact with is to get vaccinated. Vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women, infants, child care workers, parents and grandparents of young children and anyone who works in a healthcare setting. Many adults do not realize that vaccination against whooping cough does not confer lifelong immunity. In fact, a booster is needed about every 10 years to maintain your defenses against whooping cough. Pregnant women can get a vaccine or a booster during the third trimester of pregnancy so that antibodies are passed along to the baby. Infant immunization can begin as early as the age of six weeks. In addition to vaccination, anyone who has a cough for more than 7 days should be evaluated by a physician. Up to 20 percent of coughs lasting for 7 days or longer in adults are caused by whooping cough.
Who Should Get Vaccinated
Anyone who comes into contact with infants or children should get a whooping cough vaccination or booster shot. Because the youngest of infants are at the greatest risk of complications and death, a protective circle of vaccination of all their caregivers is essential to reducing their risk of this potentially deadly infection. School-age children should also receive a booster shot, especially if they have younger siblings at home.
Scheduling Your Vaccination
You can get a whooping cough vaccination or booster shot from a Passport Health travel health specialist. You can also receive information about staying healthy during travel, getting immunizations for international trips, using sunscreen, selecting mosquito repellent and protecting your overall health.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vaccines
C-Health: Whooping Cough
The Boston Globe: With Disease’s Resurgence, Officials Urge Whooping Cough Boosters
The California Report: Sonoma County Has Highest Whooping Cough Rate in Statewide Epidemic
California Department of Public Health: California Whooping Cough Epidemic Continues
KREM.com: Whooping Cough Outbreak Continues in Mattawa