Charles County Department of Health Offering Whooping Cough Vaccine

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Pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough, is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. This is one of the most common vaccine-preventable childhood diseases in the U.S. It's important to remember that both children and adults can get pertussis and the diseases has been making a comeback.

Since the 1980s, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases of pertussis, especially among children from 10 to 19 years of age and babies less than five months old. In 2005, there were more than 25,000 total reported cases.

Symptoms: Pertussis can cause serious illness in children and adults. The disease starts much the same as a common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever. However, after one to two weeks, severe coughing begins. Children with the disease cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they're forced to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound.

Pertussis is worse for very young children; more than half of infants less than one who get the disease must be hospitalized. About one in 10 children with pertussis get pneumonia. and about one in 50 will have convulsions. In addition, about one in 250 people who become infected with pertussis develop a brain disorder called encephalopathy.

How Pertussis Spreads: People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings or parents who might not even know they have the disease.

Preventing Pertussis: The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. In the U.S., the recommended pertussis vaccine for children is called DTaP. This is a safe and effective combination vaccine that protects children against three diseases: pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus. For maximum protection against pertussis, children need five DTaP shots. The first three shots are given at two, four, and six months of age. The fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months, and a fifth shot is given when a child enters school, at four to six years of age.

Parents can also help protect infants by keeping them away as much as possible from anyone who has cold symptoms or is coughing. Vaccine protection for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis can fade with time. Before 2005, the only booster available contained tetanus and diphtheria (called Td), and was recommended for adolescents and adults every 10 years.

Today there are boosters for adolescents and adults that contain Tdap. The easiest thing for adults to do is to get Tdap instead of their next regular tetanus booster every 10 years. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark, so it's a good idea for adults to talk to a healthcare provider about what’s best for their specific situation.

The Charles County Department of Health in White Plains has the Tdap vaccine available for the public. Call (301) 609-6900 ext. 6018 to make an appointment or for further information.


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