As if parents didn’t have enough contagious viruses to worry about- whooping cough, which hit a 60-year high last year, is continuing in 2013.

“Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory illness; it’s transmitted through air-salized respiratory droplets. So you’re contagious the whole period that you’re coughing,” says Dr. Angela D’Alessandro, pediatrician on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Sometimes called a hundred day cough, pertussis or whooping cough, is most dangerous to babies.

“The illness has the highest mortality in infants under three months. And it’s because they have the most complications, so they don’t just get the coughing spells, but they stop breathing, they can have respiratory failure, seizures, and death,” says Dr. D’Alessandro.

Here’s where whooping cough and the flu intersect. Both have vaccinations that lower your risk of getting sick. In both cases, the epidemic would be short-lived if people took the shot and avoided spreading the illness.

“When we look at the pie of infant pertussis and how an infant gets pertussis, 50 percent of cases are from mom and dad; another 25 percent are from grandma and grandpa. So if these four, five, six people get vaccinated, you’ve decreased the risk for the infant by 75 percent,” says Dr. D’Alessandro.

Pertussis protection wears off over the years. So by adulthood it should be repeated. Another cause for the comeback- some parents are skipping their child’s immunizations over fears about vaccines. Not mom Marina Bloetz.

“Because I think it protects them against worse illnesses, what they could get. And the chance that they’re getting anything out of it is very small,” says Bloetz.

If more people take proper precautions, whooping cough could once again fade into the background.

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we've been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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