More commonly known as whooping cough, Pertussis is a contagious infection of the respiratory tract caused by the bacteria Bordatella Pertussis. Thick mucus accumulates in the airways, provoking heavy coughing spells. Pertussis can be spread via droplet. The infected person may sneeze or cough and the tiny germ droplets may be inhaled by any bystander. Whooping cough was seen mostly in children before, but after the development of vaccines against it the infection is found in many teens or adults whose immunity has faded and babies. Although death from Pertussis is rare, it is important for pregnant women especially to be vaccinated against the infection.
Pertussis is characterized by uncontrollable, severe coughing and a high pitched “whooping” sound. It can take from 1-3 weeks after infection before symptoms begin to show. Early symptoms are similar to those of a common cold – runny nose, slight fever, sneezing, watery eyes, etc. The coughing spells may begin after a couple of weeks and can cause vomiting, fatigue, and even a short loss of consciousness. Not all people develop the whooping sound in their cough so it is important to consider all other symptoms.
Because the vaccine against whooping cough eventually wears off, teenagers and adults are susceptible hosts. Also, since you need all three shots to be fully vaccinated, infants under 6 months are also at risk. Pertussis can bring up many complications. In infants, seizures, ear infections, difficulty breathing and even brain damage may occur. Complications may be life-threatening and possibly call for hospitalization. In adults, complications can be less severe. Bruised or cracked ribs, abdominal hernias and broken blood vessels are the most common side effects of the infection in teens and adults.
Pertussis can be diagnosed using a blood test, a chest x-ray, or a nose or throat culture and test, where a swab of your nose or throat is taken and tested for evidence of the bacteria. Because infants are at a higher risk for death, they are usually hospitalized and need to be monitored closely. The child is isolated to prevent the spread of infection. Antibiotics help relieve symptoms and kill the bacteria. Over the counter medicine is not helpful in relieving symptoms and they should not be used.
For people with whooping cough, plenty of rest is recommended. Eating healthy meals and drinking lots of water is also important. Also, doing whatever you can to break the chain of infection is very helpful in protecting those around you. To prevent the spread of pertussis, vaccines and booster shots are given. Pertussis is a very serious disease, even deadly in some cases. All symptoms should be regarded and treated during the early stages. Pertussis is a real threat and should be taken seriously.