What's Going Around: whooping cough

What's Going Around: whooping cough
Whooping cough or pertussis is What's Going Around this week in Southwest Louisiana. (Source: KPLC)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A highly contagious respiratory disease known for its distinctive cough is what's going around this week.

A recent handful of cases of whooping cough in local children is concerning in the medical community.

"We're definitely seeing an increase in identified cases," said Lake Charles Memorial Health System infection preventionist, Bridget Redlich.

Pertussis or whooping cough affects the young and old, but the effects on the young can be especially scary.

"It's very similar in presentation to a common cold or upper respiratory infection," said Redlich, "more distinctive with that is the barking-type whooping cough."

The uncontrollable, violent coughing often makes it hard to breathe.

Whooping cough is diagnosed by a physical exam or mucus sample, testing for the bacteria.

Redlich says it is very contagious.

"It's spread by respiratory secretions," said Redlich.  "It typically comes with a productive cough, runny nose, watery eyes.  That's where it's very similar in presentation to a common cold or allergies."

The pertussis vaccine or Tdap booster is highly recommended, particularly in pregnant women and anyone who will be in close contact with babies or young children.

"Pertussis can affect any age, that's why it's important to have a booster such as the Tdap," said Redlich. "Children are vaccinated, it is part of one of the routine childhood vaccine series."

Antibiotics can treat pertussis, but in some cases, hospitalization is required to monitor breathing, give oxygen, and IV fluids.

If your child is treated for pertussis at home, make sure you have a doctor's orders before giving cough syrup.

You can reduce the risk of spreading it by practicing good handwashing and following vaccination schedules.

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