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Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. This bacterial infection primarily affects the respiratory system, leading to severe and prolonged coughing fits. 

Despite being preventable by vaccination, whooping cough still poses a significant health risk. It can cause serious sickness in individuals of all ages, but it is most harmful to infants.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough

1.  Initial Stage

Early symptoms might linger for one to two weeks and typically include:

·      Low-grade fever 

·      Runny or stuffed-up nose

·      Infrequent, mild cough

·      Sleep apnea

·      Cyanosis (becoming blue or purple) in infants and children

In the early stages, whooping cough appears to be little more than a typical cold. As a result, doctors frequently do not suspect or identify it until more serious symptoms emerge. During this stage, the infection is highly contagious.

2.  Paroxysmal Stage

After the initial symptoms, the illness progresses to the paroxysmal stage. This stage is characterized by severe and uncontrolled coughing fits. Coughing fits may lead people to

·      Make a high-pitched “whoop” sound when they are finally able to inhale after a coughing attack.

·      Feel weary after the fit, but normally seem fine in between fits.

·      Vomit during or following a coughing fit.

·      Struggling to breathe

Coughing fits can be exhausting and often lead to vomiting. It usually lasts 1 to 6 weeks but can last for up to 10 weeks. Coughing fits generally get worse and become more common as the illness continues.

3.  Convalescent Stage

In the convalescent stage, the severity of coughing fits gradually diminishes. However, the recovery process can be slow. Lingering cough and fatigue may persist for several weeks. This makes it crucial for individuals to take adequate rest.

Causes of Whooping Cough

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. The sickness only affects humans.

The germs that cause whooping cough cling to the cilia (tiny, hair-like extensions) that line the upper respiratory tract. Toxins (poisons) are released by the bacterium, causing cilia to be damaged and airways to expand.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Whooping Cough 

The diagnosis of whooping cough often involves a combination of the following:

·      clinical symptoms

·      laboratory tests

·      medical history

Nasopharyngeal swabs or blood tests may be conducted to confirm the presence of the bacterium.

Doctors typically use antibiotics to treat whooping cough. There are numerous antibiotics available to treat whooping cough. 

It is critical to treat whooping cough promptly before coughing fits occur. Treating whooping cough early can

·      Prevent the bacterium that causes it from spreading to others.

·      Make the infection less serious.

NOTE: Treatment initiated after three weeks of illness is unlikely to offer much help, as symptoms often persist despite the body having eliminated the bacteria. The lingering symptoms result from the damage already done to your body.

Whooping Cough Prevention

The pertussis vaccination is the most effective approach to avoid whooping cough. Doctors sometimes combine it with shots against two other deadly diseases: 

·      Diphtheria

·      Tetanus

Doctors advocate starting vaccinations throughout infancy. The vaccine consists of a series of five shots, commonly administered to children at the following ages:

·      Two months

·      Four months

·      Six months

·      15-18 months

·      Four to six years

Preventive antibiotics, or postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis (PEP), are medications given to those exposed to harmful bacteria to prevent illness.