Whoop, whoop

Author: Morgan Huffman

The prominence of once common infectious diseases have waned in recent years due to the availability and increased usage of vaccinations. Many diseases that commonly affected children such as polio, measles and diphtheria have been successfully prevented due to the introduction of vaccines. Illnesses that stem from diseases that can readily be prevented by vaccines have seen a 99% reduction in reported cases (“Immunizations”, 2009). Throughout the year, the public is reminded to keep up with the necessary vaccinations to maintain their health. The influenza vaccine is the most popular, along with Hepatitis B, shingles, tetanus and smallpox. Some diseases are often overlooked because they are rarely diagnosed today but if we fail to vaccinate ourselves because a disease is no longer prominent, that is when “herd immunity” can be compromised. Herd immunity is defined by the CDC as: “a situation in which, through vaccination or prior illness, a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease, making its spread from person to person unlikely.”

The whooping cough epidemic is a recent example of what happens when the public fails to obtain their vaccines. There has been an increasing number of cases of children and adults being diagnosed with pertussis, which is more commonly known as whooping cough. The vaccine against whooping cough was first administered in the 1940s. At that time, there were up to 200,000 reported cases and 9,000 deaths occurred as a result. Since the vaccine has been in existence, the number of diagnosed cases has decreased dramatically to 10,000 diagnosed cases each year. Infants are the most likely to contract this disease, although it is still possible for adolescents and adults to be diagnosed with whooping cough.

Pertussis begins with symptoms that are similar to the common cold and then develops into painful and lengthy bouts of coughing. The coughing is so intense that it often leads to vomiting and  unconsciousness occasionally. Whooping cough is transferred from person to person through tiny droplets that are released from the nose or mouth through either sneezing or coughing. A person infected with pertussis can infect up to 15 people throughout the time they have the illness, which usually ranges from 5-6 weeks in length. Whooping cough is curable, but it often causes patients to be hospitalized for an extended period of time and can result in death. Infants are the most susceptible to death after contracting pertussis; their fragile immune systems and developing bodies can quickly be ravaged by the cough. An effective way to prevent your infant from contracting whooping cough is to be vaccinated during the second or third trimester of the pregnancy, and have those who interact with the infant regularly be vaccinated, too.

The importance of continued vaccinations cannot be stressed enough, whether it be the influenza, polio, meningitis, or whooping cough vaccine. We are responsible for our own health which can directly affect the health of those surrounding us. If one person in your household contracts an illness, those living there can be exposed to the bacteria and contract the illness in a matter of days, which is what happens to parents of young children who are not vaccinated against pertussis. Vaccinations are the key to preventing diseases and maintaining the health of yourself and those around you.


Center for Disease and Control. (2010, August 26). Centers for disease control and prevention.     Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html

Immunizations. (2009). Healthy States: A CSG initiative. Retrieved October 9, 2009 from             http://www.healthystates.csg.org/Public+Health+Issues/Immunizations/

Pertussis – PubMed Health. (2012, August 2). National Center for Biotechnology Information.             Retrieved October 9, 2012, from        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002528/


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