Over the past decade we have been seeing a rise in pertussis or "whooping cough." And recently there has been more coverage of this in the local newspaper as more cases are being identified in Illinois.

So what is pertussis/Whooping Cough?
-Whooping Cough is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella Pertussis. This bacteria is only carried by humans and infects the airways causing swelling which makes you cough. If the swelling is bad enough your child can die. Those at most risk from this infection are the very young (less than 1 year old) and those with medical problems like prematurity, heart or lung problems. 

How do you know if you have pertussis/Whooping Cough?
-Initially it starts like any other runny nose. This can last for days and then violent coughing starts. Younger children/infants will make a whooping sound or stop breathing.
-If you think that your child's cough sounds like this please come in immediately

How is pertussis/Whooping Cough prevented?
-Your children are vaccinated against pertussis at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months. After that they get a booster with every tetanus vaccine usually at kindergarten and 11 years of age.
-Adults should get a tetanus/pertussis booster every 10 years starting at college age.
-Vaccination is THE MOST important step to prevent getting or spreading pertussis

Why are we seeing outbreaks of pertussis?
-As previously mentioned, vaccination is the most important step to prevent pertussis. As more families choose to not vaccinate their children they are increasing the spread of the disease. 
-This is one of the reasons why we choose to not see families that do not vaccinate their children. 
-Adults that have not gotten a booster/tetanus shot in the past 10 years are also at risk for spreading pertussis. -If it has been longer than 10 years since your (or someone you know) last tetanus booster it is time to get caught up. Please see your doctor or public health department to arrange for vaccination.

More information:
Sounds of Pertussis - an emotional and informative website about recognizing pertussis and vaccination
Pertussis from - a reliable source from the American Academy of Pediatrics

As always, you can call us at any time if you have questions or concerns. - Aaron Traeger MD FAAP
Aaron R Traeger MD FAAP Pediatrician Pediatrics Bloomington Normal Illinois