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Protect against whooping cough

November 7, 2012
The Daily News

The Michigan Department of Community Health, along with the Michigan Osteopathic Association and Michigan State Medical Society, are urging all Michigan residents to get vaccinated against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and influenza to protect themselves and vulnerable infants.

"Most parents today have never seen the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases can have on a family or community," said James K. Haveman, Director of the MDCH. "Through vaccination, Michigan families are much better protected than they were in the past but vaccine-preventable diseases are still a very real threat and they continue to exist in the communities in which we live, work, and play."

Whooping cough is one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. and cases are on the rise.

In Michigan, there has been a steady increase in pertussis throughout the past decade, with a peak of more than 1,500 reported cases in 2010. This year in Michigan, there already have been 597 reported pertussis cases as of Sept. 30.

Pertussis continues to circulate in U.P. communities as well.

In fact, there have been approximately 125 cases of pertussis reported in the U.P. so far this year, said Dickinson-Iron District Health Department officials.

The state of Wisconsin is also dealing with outbreaks. Parents are encouraged to make sure that they and their family members are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Most medical providers and all health departments have vaccine on hand.

Dickinson-Iron District Health Department Medical Director Dr. Teresa Frankovich, M.D. notes that children normally receive a DTaP Vaccine, providing protection against pertussis, at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months of age, and a booster dose at 4-6 years of age.

"Some parents may not realize that another booster dose (called Tdap), is now required for children at 11 years of age," Dr. Frankovich said. "This one-time booster is also recommended for adults who have not had a pertussis vaccine since childhood."

"Because young infants are at highest risk for serious disease with pertussis, it is particularly important that expectant or new parents be vaccinated as well as grandparents and others who have the closest contact with young children," Dr. Frankovich said.

Pertussis usually begins with mild upper respiratory symptoms, such as a runny nose and mild cough, with little or no fever.

It then progresses to a more severe cough, with spasms of coughing which may cause vomiting.

Some, but not all individuals, will actually make a whooping sound as they take a breath between coughing spasms.

This is how pertussis came to be called "whooping cough."

Antibiotics are used to help decrease contagiousness in people with pertussis and can be used to help prevent infection in close contacts, but they do not "cure" the illness and symptoms may last for 6-10 weeks.

Complications of pertussis in older children and adults may include pneumonia and rib fractures.

As noted above, young infants are most at risk for severe disease and complications such as pneumonia, seizures and rarely, death.

Unfortunately, it can be up to three weeks between the time someone is infected with pertussis and the time they actually develop symptoms, so when one new case is identified in the community, additional cases are likely to emerge over the subsequent weeks. Individuals with symptoms of pertussis are generally most contagious in the first two weeks of illness.

"The best way to protect your family is to make sure that everyone in the household is up-to-date on their pertussis vaccinations," Dr. Frankovich said. "It is also important to have your child seen by a health care provider, if he is sick with pertussis-like symptoms, before sending him to school."

Individuals should call their health care provider or the health department to see if they or their children are due for a pertussis vaccine, or to make an appointment to be vaccinated.

For more information about vaccinations in Michigan, including pertussis and flu, visit and



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