Protect yourself against “whooping cough”

Ellen Byars
Clinical Nurse II
, Unit 4-3 Mother/Baby

It’s the beginning of flu season, and everyone is talking about getting vaccinated against the flu. If you have young children or an infant at home, while you are getting your flu shot, you should ask about getting vaccinated against pertussis, too.

What is pertussis you ask? The fancy word for the bacteria that cause pertussis is bordetella pertussis. The uncomplicated name for pertussis is simply “whooping cough,” as victims of pertussis develop a cough that makes a “whoop” sound. The illness is transmitted to its next victim when the infected individual coughs or sneezes. Pertussis is so contagious that if one person in a household has pertussis, he or she will infect almost everyone else in the household who is not vaccinated. You may have pertussis if you have a prolonged cold that includes a severe cough. The best way to know if you or your loved one has pertussis is by seeing your doctor.

Pertussis is hardest on babies and young children. The pertussis cough is so severe it leaves the sick individual gasping for air and unable to breathe. In fact, 40 percent of infants who develop pertussis are hospitalized. The number of reported cases of pertussis has risen over the past 20 to 30 years, and due to this reality, there has been an increased push for new mothers and caregivers of young children to get vaccinated.

At Durham Regional Hospital, we offer the TDAP vaccine to post-partum mothers before they are discharged home. It is a good idea for any caregivers to also get vaccinated. The TDAP vaccine offers immunization from tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. If it has not been 10 years since your last tetanus booster, it is still safe to receive the TDAP.

Ask your doctor about the pertussis vaccine, and everyone in your family will benefit.

Visit durhamregional.org to find a physician who’s right for you.

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