Skip to main content

Whooping Cough Making a Comeback

A few weeks ago I was approached by a teacher at an elementary school whose student been coughing for weeks and had been tested for whooping cough.  She was concerned about the other students in the class being exposed to whooping cough, but was quite surprised when I explained that she and her teaching assistant were probably most at risk of becoming infected with whooping cough.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable violent coughing.  The disease is not very well known these days because widespread vaccinations virtually eradicated the disease in the United States years ago. However, whooping cough is making a comeback with 153 cases of confirmed in North Carolina in 2010. 

Most children receive the bordatella pertussis (commonly included in the D-Tap vaccine combination) vaccine at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 18 months.  With each shot, children’s immunity builds to whooping cough, reducing their chances of contracting the disease and reducing the severity of the illness if they do happen to get it. 

Whooping cough boosters previously thought unnecessary are now recommended by physicians.

Up until a few years ago following the 18 month shot you were considered fully vaccinated. However, physicians and public health professionals have learned that the bordatella pertussis vaccine does wear off, and a booster shot between the ages of 10 and 64 is necessary to retain immunity.

A booster shot is especially recommended for teachers, parents, and grandparents – to protect both themselves and the newborn babies and young children who are at most risk of getting very sick and dying from whooping cough.  In fact, more than ½ of babies who get whooping cough will need to be hospitalized and 1 in 100 babies who get whooping cough will die.

Additionally, some parents are choosing to forgo vaccinations for whooping cough and many other diseases due to concerns with vaccine safety.  When parents make the decision not to vaccinate their children for whooping cough or other diseases, they are not only risking the health of their child but of the community at large.

Learn more about whooping cough and protecting you and your family from the disease by contacting your physician or by clicking here.

Robin Carver is the director of infection control and prevention on WakeMed Raleigh Campus.

WakeMed Children’s is dedicated to providing answers to common questions parents have about children’s health and wellbeing.   Learn more by subscribing to WakeMed’s Families First newsletter.  Have a specific question you would like answered?  Post a comment or email us directly.