With nearly 18,000 cases of whooping cough already reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health experts fear this year’s outbreak may be the worst since 1959 if infections continue at this rate.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection that is highly contagious and spread through coughing and sneezing. Its symptoms start out similar to a cold, but after a week or two develop into a very serious cough. Babies and young children are particularly at risk for this infection, named for the whooping noise caused by the rapid and violent coughing.
The whooping cough vaccine is administered to babies when they are two months old, with four more doses given up until the age of seven for full protection from the disease.
While infections normally rise and fall in waves, experts are not entirely sure what the reason is for this recent spike. The CDC is urging parents to make sure their children get their five pertussis vaccinations by age 7, then booster shots between 11 and 12 years of age. They’re also recommending that adults who will be around babies get booster shots.
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