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In 2012, the United States experienced its highest outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) since the 1950s with over 40,000 cases reported. That number was drastically reduced by more than half in 2015 thanks to increased education and adoption of vaccinations for infants.

Before the whooping cough vaccines were recommended for all infants, about 8,000 people in the United States died each year from whooping cough. Today, because of the vaccine, this number has dropped to fewer than 20 per year.

Unfortunately, incidents of pertussis are still unusually high in Nebraska compared to other midwestern states. In 2017, Nebraskans reported 27 new cases per 100,000 population, higher than any other state in the nation.

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 in past years, the incidence rate of pertussis among babies exceeded that of all other age groups. Additionally, the majority of pertussis-related deaths occurred among babies younger than 3 months old.


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.
  • Everyone 11 years old and older, including pregnant women, should receive the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis shot, called the Tdap.
  • 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 contact the Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency Infectious Disease/Travel Clinic with any questions you may have.

Stephanie Neuhaus, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court

Dr. Neuhaus answers your questions about child health and parenting. She enjoys being a pediatrician because it allows her the opportunity to help people every day. Dr. Neuhaus is always open and honest with her patients and she is excited to watch them as they learn and grow. She strives to build lasting relationships with her patients and their families. Dr. Neuhaus, a mother herself, believes in always listening to patients' moms. They know when something is wrong with their child and d ...

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