Pertussis: Protect yourself and your family

By Tanya ChewFebruary 11, 2019

The pertussis vaccine provides protection against a preventable disease that has increased in recent years.

While vaccination isn't a guarantee to prevent against pertussis, it does help protect our youngest population and prevent serious disease in the older population.

Pertussis, also known as "whooping cough," is a highly contagious bacterial disease spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing.

Pertussis usually starts with a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough. It then progresses to a cough that leaves lungs with no air, forcing people to inhale, which causes the "whooping" sound.

The cough can also cause people to vomit and/or turn blue.

Even after treatment with antibiotics, the cough can last for months.

While symptoms may be less severe for adults, pertussis in infants and young children can be very serious, even deadly.

The best way to prevent pertussis is vaccination. There are two vaccines that protect against pertussis: DTaP for babies and young children, and Tdap for preteens, teens and adults, including pregnant women.

Both vaccines provide protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection recommends that infants receive a dose of DTaP at ages 2, 4 and 6 months so they build a high level of protection against pertussis, in addition to diphtheria and tetanus.

To maintain protection, a booster is recommended at 15 through 18 months old and again at ages 4 through 6 years old.

Preteens should get a dose of Tdap at 11 or 12 years old. Adults who have never received a Tdap vaccine should only get one dose.

Lastly, it is recommended that pregnant women get Tdap during the third trimester to provide short-term protection to their baby in early life.

Whooping cough is especially dangerous to infants.

If service members and their families have not been vaccinated, they should make sure they do so at their next visit with their health care provider, especially if a family member is expecting a baby.

In addition, people must remember to cover their cough with tissue or their elbow and wash their hands so that we all limit the spread of disease.

Editor's note: For more information, call Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, Army Public Health Nursing at 301-677-8424.