California is currently dealing with its worst epidemic of pertussis (whooping cough) in more than 50 years and multiple other states have noticed an alarming increase as well. In an effort to protect the health and well being of you and your family the 75th Medical Group advises that you read the following.
Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract which typically results in cold like symptoms coupled with spasmodic coughing characterized by a high pitched "whoop" upon inspiration, or while taking an intake breath. Complications of this disease can include middle ear infections, suffocation, seizures and other neurologic disorders. Newborns (less than two months of age) and unvaccinated infants are at the greatest risk of life threatening complications.
The best way to prevent pertussis is by immunization. This is typically accomplished before the child reaches six months of age; however, if you have never received the vaccine you can do so at any age. For those who spend time in the company of infants, even if you were vaccinated as an infant you can decrease the risk of unknowingly spreading pertussis by receiving a booster shot.
The next step in preventing a disease such as this is to maintain proper hygiene. U.S. Naval research shows that washing your hands five times a day (most notably before you eat, after touching surfaces frequently contacted by others or after using the restroom) can decrease the chance of contracting a respiratory disease by 45 percent. This is especially important given the Centers for Disease Control's statement that 80 percent of disease is transmitted by touch. In addition, remember to cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow and not into your hands to help prevent the spread of sickness. Adolescents and adults can carry and pass on the pertussis bacterium even if they have no symptoms.
One possible reason we are seeing a rise in pertussis cases may be the recent claim that vaccines, are a potential cause of autism. While this contention was made against the vaccine for measles, mumps and Rubella; media frenzy and celebrity endorsements escalated concerns to the point that many simply assumed all vaccines are dangerous. There is no valid medical evidence to support any of these claims. In fact, vaccines have been preventing disease and saving lives for more than 70 years. The federal government has a system in place to monitor for adverse reactions and the vaccine companies routinely sample their product for quality control.
For more information on pertussis and how to prevent it -- call your doctor or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/default.htm. Additionally the 75th Medical Group's Public Health office is always here to help and available at (801) 586-9665.