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Pertussis Making a Comeback July 30, 2010

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

Pertussis Making a Comeback

(AUGUSTA, GA. July 30, 2010) – Before the introduction of the vaccine, pertussis, or “whooping cough,” was a leading cause of childhood illness and death in the United States. Pertussis has been thought to be a disease of the past, but in recent years it has made a significant comeback, according to Beth Barranco, a registered nurse and University’s WAGT Healthy U correspondent.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection marked by a severe, hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath, Ms. Barranco explained.

“It is potentially fatal in infants and researchers have found that approximately 80 percent of babies caught it from a family member,” she warned. “As many as 3 million cases are reported each year.”

Pertussis, caused by bacteria, creates a sticky, thick mucous in the airways. Uncontrollable coughing makes it difficult to breathe, eat and drink. Coughing attacks can leave infants blue and gasping for air.

Once infected, symptoms may not appear for 7-10 days and usually mimic the common cold at first -- runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, mild fever and dry cough.

After a week or two, symptoms worsen. The cough ends with a high-pitched "whoop" sound during the next breath of air, and prolonged coughing attacks can cause vomiting, bring up thick phlegm, cause extreme fatigue and even crack ribs.

“The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated,” Ms. Barranco said. “Doctors recommend starting vaccination during infancy. The vaccination consists of a series of five injections, typically given to children at these ages:

  • 2, 4, & 6 months
  • 12 to 18 months
  • 4 to 6 years

The CDC recommends a pertussis booster, also call Tdap (tetanus, diptheria, acellular pertussis), for everyone ages 11-64 especially those around young infants.

For more information on pertussis, visit or contact ASK-A-NURSE at 706/737-8423



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