Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
We have seen an increase in cases of Pertussis in recent years. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a respiratory illness that begins with mild cold symptoms and progresses to a severe cough. The cough comes in spasms and is sometimes characterized by a high-pitched whooping sound followed by vomiting. Classic pertussis lasts several weeks with some cases lasting 10 weeks or longer. Pertussis is most severe when it occurs in the first 6 months of life, particularly in those who are unimmunized or who are born prematurely. Older siblings and adults with mild symptoms are an important reservoir of infection for young children and infants. Pertussis is diagnosed clinically and confirmed with laboratory tests.
While antibiotics have minimal effect on the course of the illness once the classic whooping cough has begun, they are recommended to limit the spread of the illness. Confirmation of the illness by a medical provider helps guard against the overuse of antibiotics in the setting of a viral illness and subsequent development of organisms that are resistant to antibiotics. Control measures: All household contacts of young infants should receive a pertussis vaccine booster. Others who are unimmunized or under-immunized should complete the recommended schedule of immunizations. Household contacts and other close contacts of those who have been diagnosed with pertussis should receive prophylactic antibiotic treatment to prevent transmission of the disease. Students and school staff with a confirmed diagnosis of pertussis should be excused from school until they have completed a five day course of antibiotic therapy.