Pertussis or whooping cough causes severe complications in infants

Pertussis or whooping cough has been in the news lately as well as in the clinic this month at Southwestern Pediatrics Gilbert. As one of the longtime vaccine preventable diseases it has come to the forefront again secondary to the controversies of vaccines. Many families are choosing not to vaccinate or re-vaccinate causing many of these vaccine preventable diseases to rear their ugly heads again. Pertussis outbreaks have been steadily occurring over the past few years. According to a recent report from the CDC, there was a 21% increase in pertussis in Arizona since 2010 and a 44% increase in Maricopa County.

Pertussis is not a benign disease, also known as the 100 day cough. Children, especially infants, have many severe complications from the disease. Complications include pneumonia, seizures and encephalopathy (inflammation/infection of the brain) and death.

Ninety percent of deaths are in infants. Notably, Arizona had its first infant death since 2009 this spring. The infant was less than a month old, and Mom and Dad had started coughing previous to the baby’s delivery. Both parents had pertussis and the baby quickly began to cough and then subsequently had all the complications of pertussis and died one month after diagnosis.

This sad story is why it is so important to vaccinate for not only Pertussis but all the other vaccine preventable diseases. Not only do children need to be vaccinated, adults and adolescents need to get their boosters. This child’s death may have been prevented if both parents had received their Tdap (Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis) vaccines. As, according to the Journal of Pediatric infectious disease, 2004, Pertussis is transmitted at home with 76% being an adult/adolescent family member, 50% being a parent. Women who plan on becoming pregnant can get their Tdap from their OB/Gyn, and if pregnant can safely receive the vaccine after 20 weeks of pregnancy or immediately after delivery.

Sometimes whooping cough is hard to detect as the symptoms come in three stages. The incubation period for these symptoms to begin is about 7-10 days, but can be longer. The first stage called the catarrhal stage looks like the common cold. It consists of runny nose, sneezing, low grade fevers and mild cough. Secondly, in the paroxysmal stage, symptoms include spasms of coughing, the whoop, vomiting and sheer exhaustion. This is the stage most associated with all the complications. The third stage, or convalescent stage, is the recovery stage with frequent, but less spasms of coughing.

It can be difficult to assess newborns or infants when it comes to coughing. Which increases the risk of the disease to worsen before it is diagnosed. This makes it imperative that we achieve a cocooning effect, or circle of vaccinated people around the infants that are too young to be vaccinated; as they receive their first Dtap (Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis) at 2 months of age. Prior to that, children are extremely vulnerable. All adults and adolescents around the child should receive their Tdap boosters as soon as possible. See a breakdown of well exams and a link to the CDC’s vaccine schedule for both children and adults.

Families must also stay vigilant in keeping their vaccine status up to date, as the vaccine begins to wane in immunity and be less effective over time. The immunity reduces to 50% in 6 years, according to a study in the Journal of infectious medicine 1996. Being re-vaccinated periodically keeps the immunity of a community high, causing what is called herd immunity, protecting the unvaccinated. However, if most of the community does not keep their vaccines up to date this no longer protects.

Overall, be educated, well informed and vigilant. Continue to vaccinate the family and prevent death and severe complications, as well as, protect the community from harm. Be an advocate for vaccines. To be better educated visit the reputable websites,listed on our website, to learn about vaccines. Also if you are worried your child may have whooping cough, please come in and visit us.

Southwestern Pediatrics Gilbert is located in the Spectrum Falls plaza at the intersection of Williams Field Rd and Val Vista Drive. We accept most insurance and have a self-pay and payment plan options available. Make us your child’s medical home…2730 S. Val Vista Dr. Suite 161, Gilbert AZ 85295. 480-857-6316

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