Pertussis, whooping cough, is on the rise. It can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease starts like the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever. But after 1–2 weeks, severe coughing can begin.
Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until there is no more air in the lungs and you’re forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. In infants, the cough can be slight or not even there. But Pertussis is most severe for little ones. More than half of babies under the age of one year who get the disease must be hospitalized. About 1 in 5 infants with pertussis get pneumonia, and about 1 in 100 will have convulsions. In rare cases (1 in 100), pertussis can be deadly, especially in infants.
People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while they’re around others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, older brothers and sisters, or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. (My 34 year old daughter actually had it last November!) Vaccination wears off, so it’s not safe to assume that the vaccine you received when you were young will protect you today.
The Sounds of Pertussis Campaign launched Race to Blanket America, an effort to blanket the country with pertussis education and encourage adults to get vaccinated against pertussis. The centerpiece of the Race to Blanket America is the Sounds of Pertussis Protection Quilt, which symbolizes how those closest to babies can help create a “cocoon” — a blanket of protection — around the tiniest members of their family by getting an adult and adolescent tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster vaccination. Learn more and talk with your provider about getting your booster.