Whooping Cough (Pertussis) - Experience

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What is whooping cough? What is the history of whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a bacterial upper respiratory infection that leads to episodes of violent coughing. The disease is named for the characteristic sound produced when affected individuals attempt to inhale; the whoop originates from the inflammation and swelling of the laryngeal structures (voice box) that vibrate when there is a rapid inflow of air during inspiration. Whooping cough is highly contagious.

The first outbreaks of whooping cough were described in the 16th century. The bacterium responsible for the infection, Bordetella pertussis, was not identified until 1906. In the pre-vaccination era (during the 1920s and 30s), there were over 250,000 cases of whooping cough per year in the U.S., with up to 9,000 deaths. In the 1940s, the pertussis vaccine, combined with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids (DTP), was introduced. By 1976, the incidence of whooping cough in the U.S. had decreased by over 99%.

During the 1980s, however, the incidence of whooping cough began to increase and has risen steadily, with epidemics typically occurring every three to five years in the U.S. In the epidemic of 2005, 25,616 cases were reported according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2008, over 13,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the U.S., resulting in 18 deaths. In 2010, which included an epidemic in California (see below), 27,550 cases of pertussis were reported nationwide.

In 2010, a pertussis epidemic was declared in California. This outbreak included 9,143 cases of pertussis (including 10 infant deaths) throughout California. This was the highest number of cases reported in an outbreak since 1947. In the previous epidemic of 2005, California recorded 3,182 cases and eight deaths.

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Comment from: McKenna, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: October 05

My 9 year old daughter has pertussis. She's around 7 weeks into the illness now and recovering. She was diagnosed TODAY by a specialist at a larger hospital and it was the same situation as others have described. She started with what our doctor thought was a cold, her asthma symptoms acted up that I had her sleep in bed with me so I could literally keep her breathing at night by propping her up and having the nebulizer ready when she opened her eyes. It was the most terrifying time. After several tests, antibiotics, medicines, and an immunology test (finally) we found out what it was. My oldest daughter now has the same symptoms and she's 19. She's around week 3 with the illness and our doctor is now treating her as well. I have a more mild case and am around week 3 also. We are all on Zithromax and my daughters are also on steroid inhalers. None of us had the "classic" whooping sound while coughing. Just a lot of strong coughing spells that cause us to breath in with a sucking sound, and lots of mucus that is choking. It's very difficult at night or immediately after eating. My children are not vaccinated against the illness b/c our doctor at the time my oldest had her vaccine told us not to due to her having a severe reaction to the first vaccine. He told us that biological siblings should not get the vaccine either since they could have the same reaction and have neurological complications. So here we are, trying to recover.

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Comment from: tom, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: January 23

I have had whooping cough for 2 to 5 months. It started like tonsillitis and after a week I got that terrible cough, during one night I even broke a rib. The worst cough lasted for about 3 weeks, when I had the spasms, vomited and gasped. But from the very beginning I have had a terrible laryngitis, my voice almost does not exist, I am terribly hoarse. The doctor told me I have swollen vocal cords. I still cough a lot although without the spasms, but I have lots of mucus in my larynx.

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