Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious childhood illness. The disease is known as whooping cough because children who have it often make a distinctive whooping noise when they inhale.
It is important to note that not all children who fall prey to this bacterial disease will exhibit the distinctive whooping cough; any illness which begins with typical cold symptoms that develop into coughing with difficulty breathing should be evaluated by a health care professional.
Not only is pertussis highly contagious, it can also cause infections in the middle ear, dehydration, pneumonia, seizures, and can be fatal.
In the five year period between 1999 and 2004, 91 infants died from pertussis, all of them younger than 7 months of age. Before the vaccine was developed, 5,000 to 10,000 children died from pertussis in the United States each year.
Children who are less than one year old cannot take the pertussis vaccine. Because the children who are most at risk are too young to be vaccinated, it falls to the adults in their lives to be vaccinated against pertussis.
Adults and adolescents who live with young children, or couples who have young children or who are planning to have a child should have a booster of tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis, usually available as a single injection.
This will not only help prevent this disease in adults, but provide protection for infants and young children as well.