What's Going Around: whooping cough - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

What's Going Around: whooping cough

CDC chart showing the incidences of whooping cough by age.  (Source: CDC) CDC chart showing the incidences of whooping cough by age. (Source: CDC)

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a very contagious disease that can be deadly for babies.  It is preventable, yet the number of cases spiked by 15 percent in the most recent yearly data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is an alarming nationwide trend in the number of children under the age of one, diagnosed with whooping cough.

Lake Area Medical Center obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. James Barrow, says babies are the most susceptible to becoming very sick from this contagious respiratory virus, but pregnant women can help protect their babies through a whooping cough vaccine

"Especially in the first two months of life, it can be a very serious upper respiratory infection, can lead to hospitalization and even death," said Dr. Barrow.

Pertussis is spread from person-to-person through coughs and sneezes.  That is why Dr. Barrow says any person planning to be around a baby needs to get the Tdap booster

"Anybody planning to have a newborn baby should have all people that are going to be in contact with the child, vaccinated, and the mother should have a booster in her third trimester," he said.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women get the booster with each pregnancy, to pass on the immunity to her baby.

"The booster actually passes the immunity to the baby, because the babies do not typically start their pertussis vaccines until three months, so there's a window of time between zero and three months that a baby is susceptible to whooping cough," said Dr. Barrow.

Louisiana had 90 cases of whooping cough in the most recent surveillance from 2014.  While vaccines do not offer 100 percent protection, they are the most effective preventative tool in protecting vulnerable newborns from contagious diseases.

While the trademark symptom of whooping cough is a distinct cough, it is important to know that many babies with whooping cough do not cough at all.  Instead it causes them to stop breathing and turn blue. 

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