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In 2010, the United States had its highest outbreak of whooping cough (Pertussis) since 1959. Two years ago over 27,500 cases were reported, but the numbers could have been higher due to lack of diagnosis and under-reporting. In 1959, the nation saw 40,000 cases.

Health officials and the Centers for Disease Control are concerned 2012 may take over the top spot – warning it could be the worst outbreak ever.

Since January of 2012, the nation has already hit over 25,000 cases, with 13 Pertussis-related deaths recorded. In Nebraska we have seen 94 cases to date.

So what is Pertussis?

It is sometimes known as the 100-day cough. It can result in coughing "fits" due to the infection, which can linger in the body for up to 10 weeks.

  • It is highly contagious.
  • It can be transmitted from person to person through sneezing or coughing.
  • It can strike people of all ages, but can be especially problematic for infants and children.

Infants and children

Pertussis, if contracted, can be very dangerous for infants and children. The CDC reports that more than half of infants who get whooping cough are hospitalized and 1 to 2 in 100 die, most are less than 3 months of age.


If a patient presents with any of the following at our Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency location, a diagnosis of whooping cough is likely. These are the issues I'm looking for:

  • Severe coughing fits, which can lead to fainting or vomiting
  • A "whooping" noise when gasping for air after a coughing situation

If not diagnosed and left untreated, a patient can develop pneumonia, apnea (slowed or stop breathing) or rib fractures due to the severity of the coughing.


We concur with the Centers for Disease Control on the following:

  • Children should receive the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine.
  • Adults over the age of 19 should receive a single Tdap booster. Following an outbreak of Pertussis in 2003, the Tdap booster was introduced in 2005.
  • The adult vaccine is important especially for child care workers, grandparents and health care workers.
  • If you are pregnant, you should get the Tdap booster during the late second trimester, third trimester or immediately after giving birth – before being discharged.

Certainly there is some cause for concern about Pertussis, but with proper vaccination and symptom awareness you will be prepared and protected.

As with any health condition you should consult your primary care physician or feel free to call us at the Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency Infectious Disease/Travel Clinic with any questions you may have.


This article first appeared on September 27, 2012 on Methodist Infectious Disease Notes and was written by Dr. Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency Infectious Disease/Travel Clinic

Specialties: Infectious Diseases Education: Medical School: Creighton University Residency: Case Western Reserve University Fellowship: Case Western Reserve University ...

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