Whooping cough also called Pertussis is a very old disease, first recognised in Paris, France in AD 1578 when it caused an epidemic. It occurs all over the world but more in developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Americas. It is most common in children under two years but exists in adults who serve as reservoir of the infection. According to the World Health Organization, about 17.9 persons were affected globally by the disease in 2003 with about 279,000 deaths; about 90 percent of these figures in developing countries.
The situation was much worse before 1950 when the vaccine against whooping cough was developed. Today all infants are expected to be vaccinated against Whooping cough as part of DPT vaccine.
Neither the infection nor vaccination gives life-long immunity.
1. What is Whooping cough?
Whooping cough is a highly infectious disease of the respiratory tract (nose, naso-pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi) characterized by bouts of rapid consecutive coughs which end with loud breathing in of air (inspiration).
2. What Causes Whooping cough?
The disease is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella Pertussis.
3. How Does Whooping cough Spread?
The disease affects only humans; it spreads by droplets (tiny discharges) discharged from the nose or throat of an infected person during coughing or sneezing; thus those affected are mostly close contacts who are susceptible to the disease. The most infectious period is when the affected person is sick especially in the first seven days of the illness, level of infectivity reduces as the person recovers.
Articles touched by the ill person or with droplets are not that infective and are not considered a major route of spread; ditto for healthy carriers.
4. When Do You Suspect Your Child May Have Whooping cough?
The symptoms of whooping cough include fever, bouts of rapid consecutive coughs which usually end with loud deep inspiration. Suspect whooping cough if the person involved especially a child below five years of age has not been vaccinated against the disease.
5. What Can Put Him at Risk?.
Risk factors include age, overcrowding, poor socio-economic status and non-immunization against the disease.
6. What are the Possible Complications of Whooping cough?
Possible complications include Pneumonia and other diseases of the lungs, Convulsions, Hernia, Rectal prolapse, Ear infections, Bleeding in the eyes and Malnutrition.
7. Is Whooping cough infection preventable?
Whooping cough can be prevented by vaccination, living in well ventilated and spaced out homes, healthy diet.