This week in my practice I have seen another two cases of pertussis, or the whooping cough, as it is more commonly known, and I feel the need to sound the alert. One was in an unvaccinated infant and the other was a school aged child who had been vaccinated. This illustrates two important things: that the disease is really still around (these are the seventh and eighth cases in my practice alone since August) and that vaccination, although important, is not fool proof.
Both of the kids this week have severe wracking coughs, worse at night, which lasted days into weeks. Both were quite sick and both were coughing so hard they threw up at times. Lucky for them, neither ended up in the hospital.
Pertussis usually starts out in an adult with a milder coughing illness that is then spread to younger, more vulnerable children. Adults can get a vaccine too called tDaP (Adacel is the brand I carry in the office for the teenagers) and decrease the risk of getting this illness and spreading it to their children. In some areas of the country, all pregnant women and their spouses are offered the vaccine during pregnancy or at the time of delivery…..something to think about…..
I wanted to let all of my families know that the DTaP vaccine is very protective against pertussis but isn’t foolproof. Clearly having the vaccine makes it much less likely that you will contract the whooping cough, but as with all vaccines, there is a failure rate. So even if your vaccinated child is severely coughing, be sure to think of the whooping cough.
Try to stay healthy, grown ups need vaccines too, and don’t cough on anyone and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center