What you need to know about pertussis | Families
On Tuesday morning, the Texas Department of State Health Services released a statement urging people to make sure they're vaccinated against pertussis, saying projections show the number of people sick with the deadly disease this year is on track to reach the highest level in more than 50 years.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is no fun for anyone, but is quite dangerous in babies. Sadly, two babies have died in Texas because they contracted the infection before they were old enough to received the vaccination.
Early symptoms of whooping cough, that last for one to two weeks, are runny nose, low-grade fever, mild cough, and apnea, a pause in breathing, especially in infants. The bacteria are spread by an infected person when they speak, cough, sneeze or breathe in close proximity to you.
As it progresses, symptoms are violent coughing fits, "over and over until the air is gone from the lungs," acording to the CDC, whooping sounds and even vomiting after coughing fits. Babies especially can experience life-threatening pauses in breathing and a blue tone to the skin. The symptoms can last for weeks.
It is very important to see your doctor immediately if you or someone in your family has symptoms of this infection. A five-day round of antibiotics may be administered, and should be completed before returning to work or school in most instances. Follow your health care provider's instructions exactly to prevent spreading the infection.
Babies can be protected from the disease even before they're old enough to receive the vaccine. First, pregnant women should be vaccinated with Tdap during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Second, families should make sure that everyone around the infant is immunized against pertussis, including parents, siblings, grandparents, babysitters, etc. The vaccine should be administered at least two weeks prior to coming into close contact with the infant.
It's important to know that getting sick with whooping cough or getting vaccines does not provide lifelong protection. The vaccines are about 80-90% effective, but they don't last forever. Call your family doctor or the health department in your county to find out if you need a booster. Chances are good that you do.
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