Pertussis (whooping cough)

By Dr. Natan Bar-Chama
Updated 2024-03-06 16:24:24 | Published 2023-10-13 11:26:26
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An abstract illustration of Pertussis

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It is characterized by severe coughing fits that may be accompanied by a whooping sound when the person breathes in.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It is characterized by severe coughing spells that can make it hard to breathe. The coughing can be followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound when the person breathes in.

How is Pertussis spread?

Pertussis is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by direct contact with the mucus or saliva from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person. It is most contagious in the early stages of the disease.

What are the symptoms of Pertussis?

Initial symptoms resemble a common cold, including runny nose, low-grade fever, and mild cough. After 1-2 weeks, severe coughing spells develop, which can lead to vomiting, exhaustion, and the characteristic whooping sound during inhalation. Infants may not have the typical whoop and may instead have apnea (a pause in breathing).

How is Pertussis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of pertussis is typically made based on the clinical symptoms and confirmed through laboratory tests. This can include a nasopharyngeal swab to detect the presence of Bordetella pertussis bacteria, PCR tests, and blood tests to check for white blood cell count and antibodies.

What is the treatment for Pertussis?

Treatment usually involves antibiotics to kill the bacteria and control the spread of the disease. Supportive care, such as hydration and managing the cough, is also important. Early treatment is crucial, especially for infants and young children, as it can help reduce the severity of symptoms.

Can Pertussis be prevented?

Pertussis can be prevented through vaccination. The DTaP vaccine is recommended for children, and the Tdap booster for adolescents and adults. Pregnant women are advised to get the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy to protect newborns, who are most vulnerable to the disease.

Are there any complications associated with Pertussis?

Complications from pertussis can be severe, especially in infants and young children. They may include pneumonia, convulsions, apnea, encephalopathy (brain disorder), and even death. Adults and adolescents may have less severe symptoms but can still experience complications like rib fractures from severe coughing.

The disease primarily affects infants and young children, but can also affect teenagers and adults. Pertussis spreads through respiratory droplets from infected individuals, usually through coughing or sneezing.

Initial symptoms of pertussis are similar to those of a common cold, including runny nose, sneezing, and mild coughing. After about one to two weeks, severe coughing bouts develop, often ending with a high-pitched whooping sound.

Complications of pertussis can be severe, especially for infants. These include pneumonia, seizures, weight loss, dehydration, and even death in rare cases. Treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics and managing symptoms to prevent further complications.

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Prevention through vaccination is the most effective way to protect against pertussis. Vaccination is recommended for infants, children, teenagers, and adults to maintain immunity and reduce the spread of the disease.

The causes of Pertussis:

  • Caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis
  • Spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • Highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person
  • Can be transmitted during the first few weeks of infection, even before symptoms appear

Pertussis (whooping cough)

  • Coughing spells that may end in a whooping sound or gasping for breath
  • Vomiting during or after coughing fits
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Difficulty in breathing or rapid breathing
  • Red or blue face due to intense coughing
  • Watery eyes
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