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Useful Notes on Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

It is extremely dangerous if it affects infants under six months of age. Female children are comparatively more affected than male children and deaths are also more common among females.

Causative Organism:

Whooping cough is caused by Bordetella pertussis. It is gram negative and is present in nasal and buccal secretions.

Mode of Spread:

It spreads directly by droplet infection or indirectly through fomites recently contaminated with patient’s nasal and buccal secretions. Children commonly get infection from their playmates who are in early stages of disease. The germs are spread into the air during talking, sneezing or coughing by the patient and when inhaled by the healthy person, get the disease.

Incubation Period:

Incubation Period is from 7-14 days.

Signs and Symptoms:

There is slight fever, cold, running of nose and irritating cough lasting for a few days to several weeks. During coughing the face becomes red, tears from eyes and vomiting are the common symptoms.

At this stage there are severe attacks of irritating cough which becomes paroxysmal producing a typical ‘whooping sound’ which gives the name to this disease as whooping cough. Paroxysmal attacks of cough are more severe at night.

Infective Period:

It is highly infectious during seven days after exposure to three weeks after onset of a typical paroxysm.

Prevention:

(i) Every child must be immunized against whooping cough. These days triple vaccine DTP simultaneously gives protection against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Three doses of this vaccine are given intramuscularly at the age of 11/2 months, 21/2 month and 31/2 month. Thereafter a first booster dose is given at the age of 11/2 years to 2 years. After this a second booster dose (of DT only) is given at the age of about 5 years.

(ii) Infants should be protected from exposure to this disease.

(iii) The affected children should not be allowed to go to school for a period of six weeks.

Treatment:

(i) Isolate the patient.

(ii) Disinfect nasal and buccal discharges of the patient.

(iii) Disinfect the fomites of the patient.

(iv) Cough preparation and antibiotics may be given to the patient.