Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is seeing its worst return in over five decades and causing an epidemic.
“As of today, nationwide nearly 18,000 cases have been reported to the CDC. That is nearly twice as many as reported last year. We may be on track for a record high pertussis rate this year,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC News and other reporters.
The U.S. is already seeing double the rate of whooping cough cases as last year–including nine baby deaths–and the CDC is calling for adults to be vaccinated as the best way to protect everyone.
“In many cases, babies get this illness from their mothers or others close to them. It’s absolutely tragic,” Mary Selecky, secretary of the Washington State Department of Health, told NBC.
Whooping cough is a bacterial respiratory infection that causes severe coughing. It is extremely contagious, which is why the CDC is recommending that adults get vaccinated, as well as children get their immunizations. Pertussis is often passed onto babies from parents or adults and can be fatal for young children.
According to WebMD, pertussis can last up to 10 weeks. The symptoms are milder for adults than for children, but may present similar to a cold–sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and fever. As time progresses, the cough worsens.
If you suspect that you or your child has whooping cough, see a doctor immediately.
Image: David Castillo