Whooping cough — known also by its official name, pertussis — is making an unwelcome comeback in the United States, and doctors say that the disease could reach its highest level in a half-century this year.
Whooping cough may sound less worrisome than some of the big baddie childhood diseases, but it represents a serious threat to children, and experts are concerned about the rise of the preventable illness.
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that is risky for babies and young children, so-called due to a distinctive “whooping” sound made by infected individuals as they suffer its symptoms. Experts believe that the uptick may be in part to a switch-over made in the early 90’s from the vaccine previously used to prevent whooping cough, but say that the swap was due to “unfounded” fears over vaccine brain injury.
USAToday notes that while the whooping cough or pertussis vaccine is not 100% effective, unvaccinated children are eight times more likely to carry the germ and infect others, such as infants who are not yet fully protected from the illness because they have yet to complete the vaccine course.
Washington state is experiencing the highest levels of whooping cough in the outbreak, and the Department of Health secretary Mary Selecky says that the number of babies affected is worrisome:
“As of the end of last week, we’ve had more than 3,000 cases… My biggest concern is for the babies.”
Experts recommend all toddlers and pregnant women — who can pass the disease on to their newborns — stay up to date with the Tdap vaccine.