Update on Whooping Cough

Maricopa County health officials are continuing to report an alarming increase in cases of whooping cough.  In fact, the number of confirmed cases of whooping cough in 2012  in Maricopa County was more than three times the number in 2011, with 282 confirmed cases by September.

Whooping cough or pertussis, caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, is a very contagious infection that can spread rapidly in a community.  Recent studies have suggested that asthmatics are at even greater risk of contracting the illness.  It can be treated with antibiotics such as azithromycin (Zithromax, Z-pack) although it is most effective when given early in the course of the illness.

Pertussis should be considered in anyone with a cough lasting for more than two weeks.  Diagnosis usually requires a nasal swab and culture and needs to be done before antibiotics are started.

Although the highest attack rate of pertussis occurs in children under one year of age, approximately 60 percent of cases now occur in adults.  For this reason the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all adults under the age of 65, including all health care personnel, receive a dose of the pertussis vaccine, Tdap, regardless of the time since their last immunization.