Pertussis

Whooping cough (pertussis) kills babies!

Whoop­ing cough is the result of infec­tion with a bac­teri­um called Bor­de­tel­la per­tus­sis. It is relat­ed to the bac­teri­um Bor­de­tel­la bron­chisep­ti­ca, which caus­es ken­nel cough in dogs. In human beings, B. per­tus­sis caus­es a res­pi­ra­to­ry infec­tion. It tends to cause sev­ere cough­ing. The cough­ing is often so sev­ere that the per­son gasps after­wards. This gasp can make a whoop­ing sound. The cough­ing can be so sev­ere that the per­son can break ribs or suf­fer from bleed­ing into the eyes.

A per­son can catch B. per­tus­sis more than once. The first case is usu­al­ly the worst. Lat­er cas­es may seem to be noth­ing more than an ordi­nary cold. Yet even peo­ple with a mild case can pass the germs on to a baby, who could die as a result.

Some babies with per­tus­sis end up in the inten­sive care unit of the hos­pi­tals. Even with the best of care, the babies some­times die. Some babies with per­tus­sis sim­ply stop breath­ing and die. In fact, per­tus­sis is prob­a­bly an impor­tant cause of sud­den infant death syn­drome (SIDS), which is also called cot death. One study found evi­dence of B. per­tus­sis infec­tion in 12 of 234 Ger­man babies who had died unex­pect­ed­ly.

The immu­ni­ty to per­tus­sis lasts only a few years. That’s why adults should get boost­er a per­tus­sis boost­er. The­se boost­ers are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant for preg­nant wom­en and for peo­ple who will have con­tact with babies. Today, the per­tus­sis boost­er is com­bined with the tetanus-diph­the­ria boost­er shot.

Note that the per­tus­sis vac­cine was devel­oped by pub­lic health work­ers, not by researchers work­ing for the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try:

The inventors of the pertussis vaccine
The first per­tus­sis vac­cine was devel­oped by three female pub­lic health work­ers from Michi­gan, in their spare time!