Whoop! There it is.

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WHOOP! There it is…in Washington. Washingtonians are currently in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak. It’s only May and there have already been 1,100 confirmed cases. “That’s 10 times as many as this time last year, and health officials fear the number may rise,” reports NPR.

Whooping couch (also known as Pertussis) is a very serious and contagious illness caused by Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others. One person coughs or sneezes the bacteria out and another person breathes it in (gross). So make sure to cover your nose/mouth when you sneeze/cough. And please, wash your hands!

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Pertussis starts off with the typical cold symptoms: runny nose, congestion, sneezing, cough, or fever. But after 1-2 weeks, the cough gets really bad. “Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud ‘whooping’ sound” (CDC). What does it sound like? Click here to find out. Babies may have apnea, which is “a pause in the child’s breathing pattern” (CDC). If that happens, take him or her to the hospital asap.

Though whooping couch is highly contagious, it’s also preventable and treatable. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent pertussis. Parents should also keep infants away from anyone who has cold or cough symptoms. In the United States, DTaP is the recommended pertussis vaccine for children. It’s a combo vaccine that protects kids against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. 3 for the price of 1? What a steal. Here are the vaccination recommendations from the CDC:

  1. infants and children: For max protection, a series of 5 DTap shots are given over the course of 4 to 6 years.
  2. pre-teens/teens: The protection power of the vaccine they got as kids may have decreased, so it’s recommended they get the Tdap booster vaccine.
  3. pregnant women: “By getting Tdap during pregnancy, maternal pertussis antibodies transfer to the newborn, likely providing protection against pertussis in early life, before the baby starts getting DTaP vaccines” (CDC).
  4. adults: If they didn’t get the Tdap vaccine as preteens or teens, then they should get one dose of Tdap.

That list pretty much covers everyone. According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 infants with pertussis get pneumonia. The CDC explains that “many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.” So protect your loved ones and yourself and make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date.

Though pertussis vaccines are very effective, they aren’t 100% full proof. If the pertussis bacteria is making its way through the community, there’s still a chance that a vaccinated person can catch the disease. If you or a child develops a cold or severe cough that just doesn’t go away, get checked by your doctor asap. Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics. It’s important to get treated early on before the whooping starts.

WHOOP! There it is…the 411 on WHOOPing cough.

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