This week, the Tippecanoe County Health Department in Indiana announced it is investigating an outbreak of whooping cough. Five cases have been confirmed at Harrison High School and one at Battle Ground Middle School, according to the Tippecanoe County School Corporation.
Whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease, is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing that may make it hard to breathe. The disease gets its name from the high-pitched "whooping" sound a patient can make when trying to catch a breath during a coughing fit.
Here's what parents should know about whooping cough, also known as pertussis.
What Is Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough is a very contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. It's spread person to person, often through coughing or sneezing. The disease is contagious because infected people release tiny droplets of the bacterium when they cough. Those droplets can easily be inhaled by others nearby.
Whooping cough can be fatal, but deaths are rare.
What Are The Signs Of Whooping Cough?
Many of the earliest signs of whooping cough can be mistaken for that of a cold. They include:
- Runny nose or congestion
- Watery eyes
A person can have pertussis for a week or more before showing these symptoms.
After 1 to 2 weeks, symptoms typically get worse and can include:
- Prolonged, repeated, often violent coughing episodes
- A "whoop" sound when the patient tries to inhale after coughing
- Red or blue face
- Exhaustion from coughing
How Is Whooping Cough Diagnosed?
Whooping cough can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses, including bronchitis, a cold or the flu.
Whooping cough occasionally can be diagnosed with a patient's symptoms and a physical evaluation. However, medical tests including a nose or throat culture, blood tests or a chest X-ray may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
How Is Whooping Cough Treated?
While treatment for children and adults with whooping cough can be managed at home, infants may be hospitalized for treatment because the disease can be more dangerous for them.
Treatment for whooping cough includes antibiotics, which kill the bacteria causing the cough. However, cough medicines don't relieve the coughing. Resting, staying hydrated, staying away from smoke and eating smaller meals are recommended for people with whooping cough.
How Can I Prevent The Spread Of Whooping Cough?
If a family member is diagnosed with whooping cough, you can prevent the spread of the bacteria by:
Is There A Whooping Cough Vaccination?
Yes, there is a vaccine for whooping cough. All infants should receive a pertussis vaccine, which is the best way to prevent whooping cough.
Even if you didn’t have a whooping cough vaccine as an infant, you can still be vaccinated. The CDC recommends whooping cough vaccination for all babies and children, preteens and teens, and pregnant women. Adults who have never received a dose of Tdap should also get vaccinated against pertussis. Talk to your healthcare provider about getting the vaccine against pertussis and read more about pertussis prevention.
By Robbie Schneider
Social Media Manager