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Whooping Cough

Overview

Whooping cough is an infection of the respiratory system that is caused by bacteria ‘Bordetella’. The bacterium affects the respiratory passages and the illness of Pertussis or B.Pertussis, is characterized by severe coughing spells ending with a slightly high-pitched sound of “whooping” when the person breathes in (inhales). The Whooping cough or Pertussis used to be a deadly illness before a vaccine was available for it, and many used to die due to the illness. But, now the pertussis vaccine has reduced the number of deaths to a great extent. However, despite the widespread use of vaccines developed for pertussis, the ‘whooping cough’ has resurfaced in recent years. Though, it mainly affects infants younger than 6 months old before they are adequately protected by immunizations. Children between ages 11 to 18, whose immunity has grown weak, are also capable of contracting the Whooping cough, or adults even, whose immunity has faded with time.


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Causes

A person suffering from whooping cough has the bacterium ‘Bordetella present in their system which can be passed onto another person too, as the bacterium that causes this condition are carried in the lungs, throat and nose. So, if a healthy person inhales the same air that the sick individual has coughed out into, then they may also catch this illness. Though it takes more than one inhalation of the ‘bacterium’ to cause whooping cough as, it would probably need inhalation of hundreds or thousands of bacterium, unless a person is really susceptible (like a newborn or a person with low immunity). The whooping cough can spread or one can catch it through the contact of individuals who are in the same house or place as they are more likely to get it, and especially children. People who suffer from asthma also seem more susceptible to whooping cough.

The most infectious stage of the Pertussis or whooping cough is in the first week when it seems no different from an ordinary cough and cold. It is possible to be infectious for a maximum time of six weeks from when the symptoms first start.

Risks of Whooping cough usually get limited after an infant has passed the age of one. However, children and adults who have not been vaccinated, and infants who have not yet completed the immunization series, and adults and adolescents whose immunity to the disease has diminished are at increased risk for developing whooping cough and also for spreading the disease as it is highly contagious. Pertussis can be transmitted to others before symptoms of the disease develop. Also, in extreme cases Pneumonia is one of the most serious complications of whooping cough in children under the age of 3, and could lead to death if not treated in time.


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Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms for people suffering from Whooping cough would exhibit anything from a runny nose, to sneezing, a mild cold and low-grade fever. It’s only after 1 or 2 weeks that the dry and irritating cough gives way to severe coughing spells. During a coughing spell, which can last up to a minute or more, the person/child’s complexion could change colour to red or purple-ish. At the end of the coughing spell a characteristic whooping sound when breathing may be heard. The person could also vomit also in some cases after the coughing spell. Otherwise, in-between the spell of coughing the individuals normally feels fine or well. Although, in adults and adolescents suffering from whooping cough, the symptoms could be milder, such as prolonged cough without spells of coughing and sometimes without the whooping sound too.

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Prevention

The prevention methods to safe guard oneself from the whooping cough illness is by-:

-         Vaccinations against the whooping cough illness with the Pertussis vaccine.

-         A Quick diagnosis based on the symptoms exhibited and visit to a doctor.

-         A physical examination of the patient suffering from the possible illness of Whooping cough, and a culture test or DFA(direct fluorescent antibody) testing of nasopharyngeal secretions. Basically to identity the organisms in the nasal secretions which may be causing the illness.


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Treatments
Antibiotic medications Modern Medicine

The tried and tested allopathic treatment for a whooping cough is the medicine-Erythromycin. This is the drug that would help combat the Bordetella Perstussis infection. Ideally the early administration of the medicine during the early stages of the disease may prevent it from spreading and aggravating to the coughing stage or paroxysmal stage.

But, once the cough begins, then antibiotics cannot seem to work to shorten its duration. And hospitalization may be required especially in the case of infants, especially those between 3-6 months of age. And in these cases a suction to remove the secretions from the nasal tract and upper respiratory tract may be required, in which oxygen may also be needed.
Fluids must be given to avoid dehydration, even if the sick individual doesn’t feel like it. Especially, with food also as the patient must eat to keep their stamina up, and maintain the nutrition required for the body to recover from the illness.

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