Briefing: Pertussis, also known as “Whooping Cough”, is a bacterial disease caused by Bordetella pertussis which is highly contagious for infants and children. It can be caught by adults, although it is rare. Symptoms start out as a mild cough, then graduate to severe coughing followed by a wheezing sound characterized as a “whoop” sound when inhaling after coughing and vomiting after coughing. The coughing can last for six weeks before subsiding. The coughing can cause a hemorrhage in the eye (which is not painful and will usually disappear in two weeks or so) called Subconjunctival hemorrhage, fractured ribs, incontinent urination, post-cough or after cough fainting, and a condition called Vertebral artery dissection which creates a flap-like tear (dissection) of the artery in the neck that supplies blood to the brain. The bacteria is found using various culture methods, but is only truly effective during the first three weeks of having the symptoms. If one waits, the chance of spreading the disease is greater and can affect many people. This is why the suggestion of adults getting the vaccine is important as they too can spread the disease. Administration of antibiotics does shorten the time of the infection, but usually doesn’t help ward off the bacteria though infants generally respond better when given to ward off infection. The duration of the effectiveness of the vaccine is five to ten years and is often given to children at 15-18 months, two, four and six. The vaccine is usually administered with other pediatric vaccines (polio, etc.) and can save many from catching the bacteria. A federal advisory panel suggests that all adults get the vaccine.

According to the CDC, Center for Disease Control, there are complications that can be caused by B. pertussis. 50% will have apnea, 20% will get pneumonia, 1% will have seizures, 1% will die, and 0.3% will have encephalopathy which is a brain disease caused by many illnesses. In infants that die, 20% die from encephalopathy but most common is Refractory pulmonary hypertension which is uncontrollable high blood pressure in the lungs that is not manageable or able to be controlled. Other complications are anorexia, dehydration, nose bleeds (epistaxis), hernias, and middle ear infection (otitis media). More severe complications can include encephalopathy as a result of being deprived of oxygen supply from coughing or possibly from toxin, a collapsed lung (pneumothorax), tissue of the rectum falls into the anus and can be seen outside the body (rectal prolapse), or the lining of the brain has blood or bleeding in it (subdural hematomas), and seizures.

If you’ve been viewing a lot of television, there is an advertisement for the Pertussis vaccine that involves some frightening if not overly dramatic acting and scary whooping of an infant (quite obviously not the one the woman actress is holding) designed to cause some panic concerning the vaccine. While this may be an effective tool to connect people with a pharmaceutical company offering the vaccine, it proves to be slightly effective in creating stimuli for those suffering with hypochondria. These people have a very viable and proven psychological illness that makes them earnestly believe they have illnesses and can including faking symptoms, incorrectly identifying symptoms to be more severe then are, or simple paranoia of diseases and illnesses. Such advertisements are designed to install fear in the B. pertussis vaccine, ultimately resulting in consumption of the company’s product. However, one must review proper information that may or may not produce adequate informed decisions on exactly how necessary it is to receive the vaccine.

A 2011 study concluded that the vaccine may only last two to three years. According to doctors in pediatric medicine, the suggestion that many get the last booster at age 11 or 12 and do not get vaccinated later in life when they can transmit the bacteria to infants. It makes sense, based on the information given by Dr. Paul Offit from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who is the chief Director of the Vaccine Education Center there suggest that adults who are likely to pass bacterial infections onto infants get the vaccine. In a public interest, it would make perfect sense to vaccinate adults who have contact with infants and children to prevent spreading a pertussis epidemic; much like the one that occurs daily in developing countries and in 2010, ten infants in California died as a direct result of pertussis therefore creating an epidemic. In Canada, the number of pertussis infections has varied between 2,000 to 10,000 reported cases each year over the last ten years. Australia reports an average of 10,000 cases a year, but the number of cases has increased in recent years. In the U.S., the increase in pertussis has steadily risen since 2004, when getting infants and children vaccinated became a question of effectiveness after Lea Thompson, a reporter, created a documentary called “DTP: Vaccine Roulette”. Misinformation in this documentary reflected upon many people in 1982 and beyond, causing deep questions of the vaccine and its effectiveness with many viewers. Since then, awareness of what vaccines actually do and how they work can be easily achieved by doing several searches on the internet. The information age is slowly shedding light on ignorance sprouting from misinformation, misleading reports by some religious entities, or simple failure to inform one’s self when making important decisions.

Pertussis is a serious infectious bacteria that has the potential to become epidemic when parents or guardians fail to vaccinate properly. Be informed and make good decisions for your children on fact, not documentaries or word of mouth. It could save countless lives from being touched by a terrible disease.