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Whooping Cough on the Rise in Michigan

Mar 14, 2017

Dr. McGrathIf your child’s cough has gotten progressively worse, it may be time to see a doctor. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Oakland County Health Division are issuing a health advisory following an increase in the number of identified pertussis cases, commonly referred to as whooping cough. Anyone exposed to pertussis and displaying symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor to determine if antibiotics are needed.

Eric McGrath, M.D., infectious diseases specialist at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan explains that whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. “The initial symptoms can be confused with the common cold so parents need to be more concerned if the child’s cough becomes more extreme or an infant experiences a long pause in breathing,” he says.

Initially symptoms can include runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and possibly a mild cough or fever. After a couple of weeks, severe coughing can begin leading to coughing fits that continue for weeks. The coughing can become so extreme that the air is gone from the lungs and the infected person is forced to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound.  In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there.  Infants may also experience apnea, which is a long pause in the child's breathing pattern.

Dr. McGrath says that whooping cough can cause serious illness―especially in infants too young to be fully vaccinated. Serious complications can include pneumonia, convulsions, apnea (slow or stopped breathing), encephalopathy (disease of the brain) and even death in one percent of all cases.

The best way to prevent it is to receive immunizations. To be fully immunized, doses are given at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months. The last dose is given at 4 years old.  Pregnant women are also encouraged to have a pertussis booster shot during each pregnancy (Tdap vaccine).

For those that have contracted whooping cough, doctors can prescribe antibiotics to help treat the symptoms but mainly to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to others.

For further information or to schedule an appointment with a physician call (313)-745-KIDS.

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