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What is the Treatment for Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a contagious disease caused by a bacteria known as Bordetella pertussis. The disease is estimated to affect approximately 50 million people worldwide each year and in the same period causes about 300,000 deaths. The disease can be caught by anyone, but infants are most at risk of serious complications. The symptoms of whooping cough usually begin mildly about 7-10 days after the initial infection. As time goes by the disease begins to cause severe coughing fits with a whooping sound as air is inhaled. This long term coughing can also cause a number of secondary problems, such as rib damage and difficulty breathing. Let’s find out how this disease is prevented and treated.

The first and most important defense against this disease is vaccination. It is advised that children receive 2-4 pertussis vaccinations during their first 2 years with booster shots at 4-6 years of age and then every 10 years after. Adults are also advised to get regular vaccinations for this disease because the immunity wears off after about 10-12 years. Although adults are not usually at risk with the infection it is very important to ensure that they do not pass the disease onto infants!

What is the treatment for whooping cough?
Treatment should begin as soon as possible after a positive diagnosis. As the disease is caused by a bacteria the treatment of choice is antibiotics. The antibiotics most commonly used are erythromycin, azithromycin and clarithromycin. Other antibiotics are sometimes used in cases of allergy. It is important to note that even with treatment the symptoms may persist. However, treatment is still important to avoid spreading the condition. If the condition is diagnosed late after infection treatment is not recommended because the person will no longer be infectious.

Did you know?
Unlike many other childhood diseases, infection with pertussis does not offer lifelong immunity. However, previously infected people do have longer immunity (about 20 years) than those who are vaccinated.

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