March 12, 2012
Dr. Charles Cole of Afton Family Medicine says pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough, is what's going around central Virginia this week.
There are three stages of whooping cough. Symptoms initially look like those of a cold, including congestion and a mild cough. After one to two weeks, severe coughing fits develop and may have a 'whoop' at the end.
During the second to sixth week of pertussis, there may be vomiting after coughing spells. Coughing slowly resolves over several more weeks, although whooping cough can last as long as three months.
Children under the age of one are most likely to have complications from whooping cough and often need to be hospitalized. The illness can be fatal at this stage.
When it comes to treating whooping cough, antibiotics are given in the first stage. After that, antibiotics are less helpful in curing, but may prevent transmission to others.
Preventing whooping cough can be as easy as getting a shot. A pertussis vaccine is typically part of the usual childhood vaccine series. Dr. Cole also recommends that adults get a one time Tdap vaccine to boost their immunity.
Household members and close contacts of those diagnosed with pertussis should be treated with antibiotics to prevent the spread of infection.