Whooping Cough - what is it?

Whooping Cough - what is it?

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

This illness derives its name from the distinctive "whooping" sound made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing. 

All ages are susceptible to pertussis, but infants and young children, especially those under six months old who are too young to receive a full vaccination, are most at risk.

The bacterium Bordetella pertussis spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release tiny droplets containing the bacteria into the air, which others can then inhale. 

Close contact, such as living in the same household or spending significant time near an infected individual, increases the risk of transmission.

Whooping cough is most contagious during the early stages of infection, often before severe coughing spells begin, making it difficult to prevent its spread without a timely diagnosis.

Whooping cough typically progresses through three stages. The initial stage resembles a common cold with symptoms like a runny nose, a mild cough, and a low fever. 

The second stage follows, marked by severe coughing fits that are often accompanied by the characteristic "whoop" sound. Vomiting and exhaustion after coughing bouts are common. 

The final stage, involves a gradual recovery, though coughing spells may persist for weeks or even months.

The diagnosis of whooping cough involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. A swab test for the bacteria helps.

If you want to prevent the risk of whooping cough, one of the suggestions is to get a vaccine.

Children should receive the DTaP vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), while adolescents and adults, particularly pregnant women and those in close contact with infants, should consider the Tdap booster.

Antibiotics are your only option if you have an infection. Rest, hydration, and nutrition will help alleviate your symptoms. 

PS: There has been a lot of debate around vaccines, especially after covid-19. I remain confused about what is the right thing to do as there are compelling arguments both about taking and not taking vaccines.

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