How to prevent whooping cough

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After cough fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.

About half of babies younger than 1 year old who get pertussis need care in the hospital. The younger the baby, the more likely they will need treatment in the hospital.

Pertussis infection in babies can cause pneumonia (lung infection), convulsions (violent, uncontrolled shaking), apnea (slowed or stopped breathing), or encephalopathy (disease of the brain).

The best way to protect against pertussis infection is by getting vaccinated.

Ideally, the vaccine should also be given to family members like father, grandparents, and the baby’s nanny at least two weeks before they have contact with the baby.

Compiled by Dr. Ngozi Onuoha


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