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Whooping cough...the vaccine can prevent it. (At least do it for the babies.)

Listen to the infants coughing in the first part of this video.  They have pertussis (whooping cough) and listening to this is probably distressing, I know it is for me.  I had a newborn patient in residency who was exposed to pertussis from a visiting grandparent who later said they thought they just had a slight cold, but it was not.  It was early pertussis, and the baby developed the infection shortly after. 

She did not survive, and that is something I will never, ever forget.  

Newborns cannot fight pertussis, and are too young to be vaccinated so they rely on NOT being exposed and therefore on others to be vaccinated and to stay away if they are sick.  This is why I have always counseled that everyone around an expected newborn be vaccinated for pertussis ahead of time, long before the baby is due.

 

Pertussis is a bacterial infection, which is a big difference from most other contagious respiratory infections like flu, colds or even measles.  The first symptoms are just like a cold (runny nose, congestion, scratchy throat, maybe slight coughing) and this is also a very contagious stage,  just like what happened to my newborn patient.  The bacteria eventually produces a toxin that damages the lining of the lungs, resulting in the cough that won't go away.
 

Pertussis is one of the most contagious infections there is, partly because it is sneaky at first, and then so much coughing later.  Anyone who is susceptible (unvaccinated or not current on boosters) who is exposed WILL GET IT.    Because pertussis is a bacterial infection and we actually can treat it with antibiotics if we catch it really early.  This is why we treat contacts of a known case even before they have symptoms:  to hopefully stop the spread  and prevent the cough because once the cough starts, we cannot stop it.

 

Pertussis will probably not be life-threatening for a healthy older child or adult, but it frequently will cause coughing fits that lead to gasping, passing out or throwing up, and these fits can last for 3 months (the old world name for pertussis was "cough of a hundred days").  I have seen patients break ribs from these fits.   That really hurts.   But guess what?  Now you will have coughing fits with a broken rib.  That hurts even more.


The mom in the video states that she will not vaccinate her children because it "might not work" is surely doing what she thinks is right, but is endangering her children and those around them.   

 

If all (or at least most) the kids are vaccinated, why are there outbreaks?  The simple fact is that the vaccine, while very effective, is not 100% effective.  Nothing is 100% effective in medicine.  There are some people who just do not respond to some vaccines, and of course there are those kids whose parents choose to not vaccinate.  A few of the vaccinated kids will catch it if they are exposed, but all of the unvaccinated kids will. 

 

Choosing not to vaccinate  because "it might not work" is like choosing not to cook your food because it might not make it safe.  That makes no sense.

The newer form of pertussis vaccine has shorter immunity than the older one, but less side effects , like brief fever, that was common with the older vaccine.  For young children, this is the "DTaP" vaccine (diptheria, tetanus and "acellular"-pertussis).  The frequency of outbreaks locally  is declining, thankfully, now that the Tdap booster is mandatory in middle school.  This is the newer combination vaccine that includes a booster for tetanus ("T") and pertussis ("p"), and is for everyone 10 and up.   So, thankfully we have an adult booster now and it is recommended every 10 years.  My rule is: "If you can't remember, it's been more than 10 years."

 

Please. Get your booster, and make sure to do the same for the rest of your family.   I don't want you to get it, but  I really do not want to see another baby sick like that. No one does.
 

 

 

 

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