Each year, a staggering 16 million individuals around the world fall ill with pertussis
—or whooping cough—and the disease is responsible for about 195,000 deaths each year. Recently, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reported an increased incidence of pertussis in the state. The MDHHS is working with the Oakland County Health Division on ways to promote awareness of the issue and encourage individuals to protect themselves from infection.
In an official press release
, Eden Wells, MD, MPH, FACPM, chief medical executive for the MDHHS said, “Pertussis is a contagious disease that easily spreads between people and can be difficult to diagnose. We support the proactive efforts of the Oakland Health Division in ensuring residents are aware of this increase and the steps they can take to protect themselves and their children.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common early symptoms
of infection include: runny nose, “low-grade fever,” a mild infrequent cough, and apnea in babies. These symptoms can last between 1 and 2 weeks. However, later-stage symptoms are known to be more intense and include rapid coughing fits that are “followed by a high-pitched ‘whoop,’” cough-induced vomiting, and exhaustion post-coughing fits. “Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud ‘whooping’ sound,” says the CDC.
The health department warns that those who are at the greatest risk of infections are infants under the age of 12 months. Sometimes, pertussis can result in serious illness, and children and infants who have not received full vaccination are actually at increased risk of falling seriously ill.
Pertussis is only found in humans and it is very easily spread from person-to-person. In fact, an individual can transmit
pertussis through coughing, sneezing, or even by spending a good deal of time with another person in which the same breathing space is shared. According to the CDC, a number of babies in fact catch pertussis from their parents or older siblings who may be unaware they are carriers of the disease.
The best action to take against pertussis is to get vaccinated. According to the CDC, there are vaccines “for babies, children, preteens, teens and adults.” Two kinds
of vaccines are available for preventing pertussis: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and poliomyelitis (DTaP) vaccines and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines. The Tdap vaccine is administered to older children and adults and the DTap is usually administered to children who are under the age of 7. When it comes to the DTap vaccine, the US Food and Drug Administration approved
a new pediatric vaccine for DTaP back in 2015 and the vaccine has just recently become available for use.
The MDHHS stresses that anyone who feels that they may have been exposed to the disease or are exhibiting related symptoms should go to their healthcare provider to receive antibiotics, if needed. Treatment, if started early, can make infection a lot less serious, and it can also assist in preventing the spread of the disease.
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