Whooping Cough: Who’s At Risk?

California has officially declared the pertussis or whooping cough outbreak an epidemic.  In fact, the golden state is on track to break a 50 year record number of cases, and 5 infants have died this year in California alone.  At GetzWell, three of our own patients (all unvaccinated) have had it in the last few months!  Fortunately these were not babies and the kids are healthy again, but it was a miserable period of many weeks of uncontrollable coughing.  The most common scenario is a mild cold that lasts a few weeks before the coughing begins.  If your child has a protracted cold (lasting more than 10 days without improvement) or a cough following a  runny nose that’s lasted a couple weeks, call us for an appointment.

The first period of pertussis illness is deceptive because it usually just causes mild upper respiratory symptoms.  Then in the final 8 weeks, the bacterium produces terrible coughing spells which deprive the person of oxygen.  Worse, if a young baby is infected, (s)he may stop breathing altogether.  And it is often the parents or caregivers of infants who unwittingly infect their babies with pertussis.

We encourage everyone be vaccinated against whooping cough (see below for particularly high risk categories) and particularly caregivers of those too young to have had several doses of vaccine (babies under 9 months of life specifically).  We know that immunity to whooping cough begins to wain 5 or so years after being boosted and that even having the disease does not protect against future infection.  So all preteens, teens and adults need to get the booster vaccine.  We offer the booster, Tdap, for all parents and caregivers in addition to vaccinating our littlest patients with DTaP.   We particularly recommend vaccination for those in the following categories:

  • Pregnant women (2nd or 3rd trimester) and their family members
  • Parents and caregivers of newborns or infants under 9 months
  • Unvaccinated or undervaccinated children
  • Preteens, teens, adults (who haven’t had a booster shot in the last 5 years)
  • Anyone with protracted cold symptoms or cough, especially those who have not been vaccinated, should be evaluated

Call us at 415.826.1701 (or email reception@getzwell.com) to schedule your Tdap booster or to have your child start or complete the primary vaccine series: 415.826.1701.  We also welcome non-members interested in vaccination or evaluation.