WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Whooping cough, a highly contagious and
debilitating respiratory disease, is on the rise among teenagers, cautions Jeanne Pfeiffer, RN, MPH, CIC, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
A preliminary count by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified more than 11,000 cases of whooping cough last year in the United States, up from 9,771 in 2002. This number, which the CDC admits is almost certainly an underestimate, is the highest recorded in three decades.
Characterized by fits of 15-20 consecutive coughs, whooping cough is an acute bacterial disease. It primarily and most severely affects children and it most commonly strikes those who are not vaccinated. However, Ms. Pfeiffer emphasizes that teenagers who were vaccinated as infants are once again at risk of infection because vaccines often dont remain effective for more than 10 years.
APIC recommends these steps to avoid whooping cough, which also is known as pertussis:
-- Vaccinate infants as soon as possible. Take note that vaccinations are not
recommended after the age of seven. Booster vaccines to re-immunize a person
are currently in development, but nothing is yet available to the public.
-- Be aware that childhood vaccination is not necessarily effective forever. There is waning or a lessening of the vaccines effectiveness after five to ten years; teenagers who were vaccinated as infants may be susceptible again to this disease.
-- If you or your child has been exposed to someone who is diagnosed with
whooping cough, contact your physician.
APIC supports cough etiquette whenever you have a respiratory illnesscover your mouth with a tissue when you cough, discard the used tissue and wash your hands or decontaminate your hands with an alcohol hand hygiene product. -- even this simple measure can help prevent infection transmission.
Most people assume whooping cough has gone the way of polio and the measles, Pfeiffer said. But there are up to 50 million cases of whooping cough worldwide each year and more than 350,000 deaths associated with it. With minimal effort in the United States, we can greatly reduce the chances of our childrens contracting pertussis.
Source: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)