Whooping Cough on the Rise in Alabama

Aug 28, 2017

Pertussis, or "whooping cough" is on the rise across the country, and the state of Alabama has seen over 150 cases so far this year.

The highly contagious disease is preventable with vaccines. However, children and infants who have not received vaccinations for the disease are at high risk of infection.

Dr. Karen Landers is a medical consultant for Alabama's immunization program. She says whooping cough has been around for many years and is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis.

“After a couple of weeks, it will progress to a more significant cough, and that’s really where the term ‘whooping’ came in. Because the cough is so severe that the person will actually have to take a deep breath as part of that coughing spasm, or that coughing paroxysm.”

Medical advancements have allowed for a vaccine that uses a weaker form of the pertussis bacterium, causing less symptoms when administered. Children who have not yet received a pertussis vaccine are advised to receive one as soon as possible, and Landers suggests that adults, especially women who are pregnant, should receive a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) booster.