Whooping Cough, on the Rise

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Whooping Cough, On the Rise

Kelly Lucas

March 25, 2011


Kelly Lucas

Dr. Simin Shirzadi

EN140 Friday 5:30

March 25, 2011

Whooping Cough, On the Rise

Whooping cough also known as pertussis is a very contagious respiratory infection. During the first part of the 20th century, the disease was the leading cause of childhood illness and death. However, after the vaccination was introduced those numbers gradually declined throughout the 1970’s. Since that time, the numbers have been increasing, mainly among populations of children who are too young to have completed the course of their vaccinations as well as teens and adults whose immunity has worn thin. (The Mayo Foundation for Research, 2009)

Whooping cough is caused by bacteria. An infected individual coughs or sneezes, anyone nearby who breathes in the bacteria in the air can be affected. Once in your airways the bacteria grow and make toxins that prevent the respiratory tracts ability to sweep away germs. As a defense mucus begins to accumulate inside the airways. This mucus causes uncontrollable coughing. In addition, the bacteria also cause inflammation that makes breathing tubes narrow. This makes patient have to gasp for air after a coughing fit resulting in a high pitched “whoop”.

While most people recover from whooping cough, infants especially those under 6 months of age, the risks are greater and may be very severe. They can include ear infections, Pneumonia, slowed or stopped breathing, dehydration, seizures and brain damage. Infants as well as toddlers are at the greatest risk. They are more likely to need treatment at a hospital. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention US Government, 2010)

Whooping cough is on the rise, and thought to be for 2 main reasons. One, the whooping cough vaccine received as a child eventually wears off. This leaves most teenagers and adults susceptible to the infection. Also, children are not fully protected until they receive 3 vaccination shots. This...