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Whooping cough vaccine recommended for all Kentuckians

Health officials are urging Kentuckians to obtain a vaccine to protect against pertussis, also called whooping cough. The number of recorded cases has jumped in recent years from 47 in 2007 to 250 in 2010, according to a news release Wednesday from the Kentucky Department of Public Health. Children younger than 1 year old are especially at risk, said Dr. William Hacker, commissioner of the health department. Source: article

Pertussis is an endemic (common) disease in the United States, with periodic epidemics every 3 to 5 years and frequent outbreaks. In 2009, nearly 17,000 cases of pertussis were reported-and many more cases go unreported. Source: article

Pertussis outbreaks can be difficult to identify and manage. Other respiratory pathogens often cause clinical symptoms similar to pertussis.

Signs & Symptoms:  Pertussis can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks. Source: CDC

Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound. This extreme coughing can cause you to throw up and be very tired. The "whoop" is often not there and the infection is generally milder (less severe) in teens and adults, especially those who have been vaccinated. Source: CDC

Click here for an audible example of a child with whooping cough.
Click here for an audible example of an adult male with whooping cough.
Sound clips from: Whooping

Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include:

  • Runny Nose
  • Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)
  • Mild, occasional cough
  • Apnea - a pause in breathing (in infants)

As the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis appear and include:

  • Paroxysms (fits) of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched "whoop"
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Exhaustion (very tired) after coughing fits

The coughing fits can go on for up to 10 weeks or more

Pertussis Vaccination:  

The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. There are vaccines for children, pre-teens, teens and adults. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP, and the pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap.

WKU Health Services does have the Tdap (Pertussis) vaccination available. This is intended as a onetime booster for adults, and may be given instead of the tetanus/diphtheria combination for both routine boosters and for use in injuries.

For further information about vaccinations at WKU Health Services please visit:

For additional information about Pertussis (Whooping Cough) please visit:
Vaccine Information Statement (Td/Tdap):
Adolescent & Adult Vaccine Quiz:
The Sounds of Coughing: An Auditory Guide:

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 Last Modified 9/25/14