NewsYour Health MattersAsk Dr. Nandi

FDA concerned as whooping cough cases soar over 2023 levels

Health experts warn of whooping cough outbreaks in these areas
Posted at 4:04 PM, Jun 05, 2024

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, cases of whooping cough have surged to nearly three times higher than in 2023. According to the CDC, 4,876 cases have been reported up to week 21 of this year, compared to 1,755 cases during the same period last year.

Whooping cough is very contagious. Pertussis is the actual medical term, and it's an infectious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. People call it "whooping cough" because of the distinctive “whoop” sound patients make when they try to catch their breath after coughing a lot.

Why this happens, is because the bacteria attach to tiny, hair-like structures in the upper respiratory system. They release toxins that damage airways and cause swelling. Symptoms can start with a runny nose, low fever, and a mild cough. However, for some people, the coughing fits can be so severe they lead to vomiting and difficulty breathing. In some cases, people can even bruise or fracture their ribs.

As for where we’re seeing the most cases, New York and Pennsylvania have experienced increases. Last week, 138 new cases were reported across 15 states. Schools are also affected, with reports of outbreaks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Minnetonka, Minnesota.

In the United States, two types of vaccines help prevent whooping cough. Both also protect against other diseases.

DTaP vaccines are given to babies and children younger than 7 years old, providing protection against Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. For older children and adults, they are given Tdap vaccines, which offer protection against Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

However, many people mistakenly believe that once vaccinated, they're protected forever. But, immunity from the whooping cough vaccine can decrease over time. That's why the CDC recommends adults receive either a Td or Tdap booster dose every 10 years to maintain immunity levels.

As for treatment, antibiotics are typically prescribed to help control symptoms and reduce severity. If pertussis is left untreated, it can be very dangerous, especially for infants and those who are immunocompromised. Complications can include pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and even death.

That’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated. Before the vaccine, there were around 200,000 cases of whooping cough annually among children, and roughly 9,000 died. Since its introduction in the late 1940s, the number has significantly decreased, dropping by more than 90% compared to the pre-vaccine era.