Whooping Cough, again

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Do any of you remember that some months ago I mentioned in these electronic pages that Whooping Cough was making a comeback?

Do you have young children?  Get informed.

And even if you are an adult, you don’t want to get Whooping Cough.

A doctor friend of mine came down with the highly infectious Pertussis… Whooping Cough… and it knocked her off her feet for a couple months.   In a regular meeting of our literary group, she discussed Whopping Cough with another M.D.  They scared the you-know-what out of me.  I resolved to get periodic Tetanus and Pertussis boosters.

Pertussis is from Latin, of course.  Tussio is “to cough” and tussis is “a cough”.  The prefix per– is an intensifier.

Whooping Cough is so violent that you can break your own ribs.

Whooping Cough may sound like a blast from the past, some distant thing that perhaps your grandparents may have mentioned.

Now I read this story from the Santa Fe New Mexican:

N.M. infant dies of whooping cough

A 2-month-old San Miguel County infant died from whooping cough last week, the state Department of Health announced Monday.

The agency is still trying to determine how the child contracted the disease, also known as pertussis. There have been no confirmed cases of the disease among the child’s immediate family.

It was the first pertussis-related death in New Mexico since 2005.

The department recommends that babies receive three vaccinations against pertussis by the age of 6 months. According to the recommendations, the vaccinations should be administered at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months. Repeated vaccinations are recommended between 15 and 18 months, again between 4 and 6 years of age, again in middle school, and again as a teen or adult.

A booster is recommended for adults who have close contact with infants.


Read the rest there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. CDNowak says:

    Every time there is an outbreak of pertussis near me I cringe, as I cannot get the shot due to drug allergies.

  2. mrsschiavolin says:

    Also the CDC has admitted that the herd immunity is weak. Adults with the vax still contract it but have lessened symptoms.

  3. LisaP. says:

    Coming soon, chicken pox.

    The problem with pertussis is that new strains are developing PLUS people are vaccinated but not boostered so they have some immunity and think they just have a nasty cold and pass it on to those not vaccinated PLUS some folks have become so burned by the intense propaganda and lying of the vaccine industry and doctors that promote it that they refuse all vaccines for their kids.

    We vaccinate for tetanus, pertussis, polio, a number of vaccines that are proven and that protect against real hazards. But every time we go in we get pushed to vaccinate for Hep A and chicken pox — newer vaccines, not necessarily both effective, both using embryonic cells in development, and neither disease hazardous in the normal course of things. If I were a less stubborn person, I’d avoid the whole kit and kaboodle rather than argue with doctors every single blooming time (I’ve had to inform two good pediatricians of the cell line issue — both thought I was NUTS, then came back after researching saying I was right).

    So chicken pox is coming next, because the vaccine immunity probably is not life long and chicken pox is much worse the older you get. So what you’re going to get is kids that aren’t immunized not catching it early, like folks used to when there wasn’t a vaccine and almost every kid got it in grade school, because peers are vaccinated, and they are at risk for greater illness later in life; then you have adults that don’t get a booster that will catch it at the age of 30 or 40 and potentially get hit hard.

    I think the pertussis wave is horrible, and its great to have info about that, but I do wish there were more public information so that consumer demand would provide more vaccine options. For example, my kids got measles and mumps vaccines separately so we could avoid the rubella vaccine; as far as I know, that option is no longer available. It would be nice if the untainted rubella were available here, or even if you could avoid rubella by taking an unmixed vaccine, but in a nation with dozens of choices in dog food we have one MMR vaccine, period. If more people made an issue, maybe more options would be available and more people could vaccinate more.

  4. SKAY says:

    Thank you for the information Father Z.

  5. jasoncpetty says:

    Whooping cough’s not mentioned in this chapter, but this book discusses one possible theory for the resurgence of diseases that are — as Fr. Z. says — “a blast from the past, some distant thing that perhaps your grandparents may have mentioned.”

    However, there could be other explanations.

  6. andreat says:

    CDNowak, that is precisely why as many people as can get the shot should get it – so that those who are unable to have immunisations are also protected. It is called “herd immunity”. If a high enough percentage of people are immunised, then the risk to those who are unimmunised (eg infants, people with allergic reactions or other medical conditions) is greatly reduced. According to a couple of sources I googled (so take it or leave it) for Pertussis, about 94% of people need to be vaccinated for the herd immunity to kick in, which I reckon is quite a bit higher than the current vaccination rate.

  7. I posted this because it would sorely grieve me to hear that anyone of the readers here should get this nasty bug…. even editors of the Fishwrap, as a matter of fact.

    Even worse would be hearing that someone’s child contracted Whooping Cough.

  8. LisaP. says:

    I believe it was the last wc post that reminded me to bring my older kid in for a booster, it’s great information.

    I just don’t like a lot of the disinformation I see **elsewhere on this topic, where the new rise in pertussis (and measles) is used as a club to beat up parents who choose not to use some or all vaccines and to paint them as careless, uniformed, unwilling to see the consequences of their choices, and irresponsible. Certainly* not* something this post does! I just tend to feel the need to get the word out there to folks without kids that it’s not as simple as the regular media often portrays it as being. If you don’t have kids right now, it’s really hard to understand how convoluted and difficult the whole “vaccine” thing can be. Sorry for the ramble.

  9. PomeroyonthePalouse says:

    Blanchet High in Seattle has been affected (infected?) as well. From the Seattle Times:
    “Bishop Blanchet High School, a private Catholic school in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood, will close tomorrow and Thursday after school officials reported that about 150 students and an unspecified number of staff members were absent.
    “School officials at first blamed whooping cough, also known as pertussis, but officials from Public Health – Seattle & King County said the school’s description of most students’ symptoms and of the speed of the outbreak more closely matched influenza, which is still circulating in the community.”

    While the bit above says it appears to be mostly flu, the early notices all breathlessly reported it as a whooping cough outbreak that closed the school.

  10. wmeyer says:

    There is, I’m afraid, a cornucopia of diseases which are coming back to prominence. Tuberculosis, for one, which is a hot button item for me, as my father had it 60 years ago, and had to receive one of the first spinal fusions, after it destroyed a few vertebra. My understanding of the phenomenon is that it is related to the influx of illegal aliens, who among other things, are not screened for diseases which concern us. But worse, in some countries, the use of antibiotics has not been well managed, and one consequence has been the development of resistant strains of diseases we thought had been vanquished. TB is on that list, and apparently if you are diagnosed today, your chance of survival is 50%, due to the resistant strains.

    I will speak with my physician about the whooping cough vaccination. It sounds like one I should consider. I do not get the flu vaccine, because it is a best-guess formulation, therefore a gamble, and because at my age, it’s less than 50% effective.

    There are things we can reasonably do, and then there are those we about which we must simply trust in God.

  11. Frank_Bearer says:

    My wife and several of her siblings contracted whooping cough as children while on a vacation to Yellowstone many, many years ago. It wasn’t that big of a deal. If you have a healthy immune system, it’s not the end of the world.

    If you have a compromised immune system, through HIV or something else, you should talk to your doctor.

  12. r7blue1pink says:

    We don’t vaccinate for it because of serious adverse reaction and have been exposed to whooping cough a few times in the last 20 years.. We’ve never gotten it thus far, and Ive known both vaxers and non-vaxers who have gotten it and recovered..

    It’s best for parents to decide whether or not to vax or not vax..

    For those that don’t vaccinate or wish not to, here are some great tips to boost the immunity and or treat with homeopathic methods:



    From my own experience, Vitamin D3 levels and Zinc levels ought to be at a premium.. It wards off much more than just whooping cough.. We never get sick- other than a minor cold that doesnt last more than 2-3 days…

  13. digdigby says:

    Very good advice and I would suggest aromatherapy instead of a polio vaccine – your crippled child will smell really good. Homeopathy is so intrinsically idiotic and transparently counter-intuitive, I suggest readers read the history and theory of it – for a good laugh.

  14. APX says:

    Fortunately in my neck of the woods shots for whooping cough are standard preventative medical care that babies get and children get boosters in school.

  15. debval says:

    Anyone know how the vaccine is derived? Aborted fetus or chicken eggs?

  16. LisaP. says:

    I believe pertussis does not use embryonic cells, but I don’t know about chicken eggs, I know allergies are an issue for many.

    I’m not a fan of homeopathy, but I believe the person posting on that said her family could not take the vaccine because of severe adverse reactions. Some particular children have violent reactions to vaccines and their pediatricians recommend against their continued use in those instances.

  17. LisaP. says:

    APX, children usually do get boosters in most communities but at some point they don’t — young adulthood, normally. Most adults until this outbreak had not had a booster in decades. If an adult picks up pertussis and thinks it’s a mild cold, he can pass it on to an infant who has not been vaccinated yet, or a person with a compromised immune system that can’t be vaccinated.

    We had an incidence of TB in a Denver high school, one kid had been sick for months (sick kids are expected to continue coming to school), they finally tumbled that it was TB and they tested the student body, huge percentage of them tested positive for exposure. Bugs are clever things, and they get around. It is important that the general population know about the whooping cough outbreaks so that the community at large knows either to booster vaccinate or to stay away from young children when you have even the most innocuous-seeming sniffles. Unfortunately, that’s hard to do with a day care and public school system that keeps kids (and therefore there families) in a constant state of exposure, but you do what you can.

  18. s i says:


    For Rabies: Imovax by Sanofi Pasteur uses the MRC-5 fetal cell line.

    RabAvert by Chiron is an alternative which uses Chick embryo

  19. SKAY says:

    “A doctor friend of mine came down with the highly infectious Pertussis… Whooping Cough… and it knocked her off her feet for a couple months. ”
    This does not sound like a trivial thing.
    I knew someone whose oldest son died from this disease when he was six months old. She did not knew where or how he caught it. I never had the heart to ask his her if he had been vacinated but I suspect he had not. I do know that her second son had every vacination available and lived at the doctor’s office when the child was young because she was so worried.

  20. Banjo pickin girl says:

    wmeyer, the increase in TB in this country is not from illegal immigrants, it is from everyone who comes here from a high-prevalence area. I was exposed to TB in graduate school in 1990-93, where I shared a lab with people from mainland China and Korea. Added to the risk was the cultural behavior of spitting on the floor. I was told when I had my first positive Mantoux test that the CDC considers all people from the PRC to be carriers of TB. It’s not just China either, that was my personal example. A coworker from Kenya lost his right humerus to TB.

  21. chris1 says:

    This is one we have held off on until our kids are 2 years old and we are keeping them boostered for it. The greatest risk is to babies under 6 months or 1 year (I forget which) and by a year they’ve only had 3 shots; fullest immunity isn’t reached until 5 shots…so the vaccine doesn’t actually protect the most vulnerable on the youngest extreme.

    CDC reports there were 18 pertussis deaths in 13,000 cases in the USA in 2008. CDC also reports than in 2008, there were 76 deaths of children under 5 years old due to the vaccine. DW and I wrestle with which vaccines to give our kids because so many of them have documented (but not publicized) side effects that can be as bad as or worse than the disease.

  22. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    I still believe it was whooping cough which took me out for months some years ago. I even fractured a rib from the cough, which lasted months. I couldn’t work that whole time. It started as a cold just before Christmas and the first week of January, I woke up with a paroxysmal cough that lasted until the beginning of May before letting up. I had seen 4 different doctors during that time and they couldn’t figure it out. However, there is no way to test for pertussis after it gets past the first stage, which resembles a mere cold.

    In adults it’s not as bad as it is in children.

    It’s good to get that tetanus booster with the pertussis in it.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    My mother is old enough to remember kids and adults dying of whopping cough, painful deaths, in St. Louis, when she was a child. I am all for vaccinations. God gave us brains to create scientific answers to epidemics. If one has lost a child to such preventable illnesses, one would not pass up on the opportunity. I lost a sister to measles before the vaccine was invented.

  24. lampada says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z! The cost to infants is usually death. The cost to one (vaccinated as a child) adult I know was a couple thousand dollar loss in travel expenses, 3 months of isolation/unemployment, and a broken rib. This individual suspected that this was another hidden price to pay for the privilege of living near the border.

  25. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    CDC reports there were 18 pertussis deaths in 13,000 cases in the USA in 2008. CDC also reports than in 2008, there were 76 deaths of children under 5 years old due to the vaccine.

    76 deaths out of how many who were vaccinated – was it in the hundreds of thousands, millions? I also wonder how many of those were caused by allergic reactions, and not from the vaccine.

    This is something worth weighing into decisions, as well. These are tough to watch, but they are clinical examples of pertussis. Most of us have never seen this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ5jf-5MobE

  26. jkm210 says:

    When I had my second daughter in December 2008, they gave me the DTap booster while I was in the hospital. I think that was a really good idea. Both my daughters had the pertussis vaccine at about 2 months in one of those combo-vaccines, but giving the booster to adults helps to avoid spreading the disease to infants if they have not yet been vaccinated.

  27. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Diane, a death due to allergic reaction to the vaccine is counted as a death caused by the vaccine.

  28. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I neglected to say that the vast majority of vaccine deaths are allergic in nature.

  29. Laura98 says:

    Lisa P. – I agree with you whole-heartedly!

    If I had to do over again… I would do it differently! There are important vaccines – Pertussis is one of them! (I remember my dad telling me stories about this disease when he was growing up – and about Polio and Measles, etc.) No question about the importance of these vaccines. But, as Lisa P. said above, every time you take your kid into the Dr., they push vaccines. And if your kid goes to public/private school you MUST have all of these or file an affidavit of exemption (A royal pain). I now homeschool and decided I don’t require any more vaccines at this time… not even the HPV vaccine which the Dr. is now pushing because my daughter is now 14. *sigh*

  30. Knittycat says:

    I caught whooping cough when I was 14. I had been vaccinated as a young child. Unfortunetly, since I’d been vaccinated we never thought that it could be whooping cough! I’m 30 now, and I still suffer the after-effects of the disease. Whenever I laugh too long or too heartily, I start coughing like an old smoker. Sometimes I cough so hard I start gagging.

  31. I’m seriously going to look into getting a vaccination booster for whooping cough, sounds like something I would never want to contract. It’s alarming to me as well the major rise in these formerly defeated diseases. Seems science isn’t the savior so many make it out to be – we may be facing new superbugs and resistant strains in my lifetime that make the former ones look good.

  32. Simon_GNR says:

    I had whooping cough when I was about four years old and my youngest brother (then two y.o.) had it at the same time. I don’t remember very much about it, but it was just a very bad cough; I coughed quite a lot of stuff up and had the characteristic “whoop”. I don’t remember it being particularly bad or painful. I remember having some reasonably pleasant-tasting medicine taken from a spoon. My brother and I can’t have had the vaccine as we both got the disease – this was in the late 1960’s. Back then, children in this country (England) just tended to have the usual “childhood diseases” and most children got through them with little lasting ill-effect. And once you’d had them you were usually immune from getting them again. As far as I can remember I had most of them: – measles, mumps, German measles, whooping cough, chicken pox.
    IIRC very nearly all children in Britain then *did* get effective vaccinations against the real “nasties” – polio, diphtherea and meningitis.

  33. LisaP. says:

    Laura98, you make me laugh, I wonder if you shouldn’t make sure you have a vaccine policy for your school that you get signed by yourself!

    It might also be a good idea for folks to keep whooping cough in mind when they have a bad cough, keep away from infants and the elderly, etc., and mention to the doctor that it might be whooping cough because it is bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics. If a young infant gets a bad cough, doctors should definitely think whooping cough and treat — it is treatable, not just vaccine preventable.

  34. r7blue1pink says:

    For the naysayers.. I dont know why this is turning into a vaccination debate in the first place…

    I simply stated parents have the right to choose and posted alternate links for those who chose to pursue other methods…. My parents didn’t vaccinate me , aside from smallpox, they weren’ t vaccinated, aside from smallpox. My Father is a 3 concentration camp survivor and has had everything under the sun. As have I ,and have lifelong immunity with no health issues from the diseases…. My grandfather was a physician and his brother a compounding pharmacist, they made a great team and kept our family healthy.

    We use a holistic approach to healing and resort to RX medication if needed..That’s how our Osteopath works and it works beautifully for our family. I have kids who have never seen tylenol and never seen an antibiotic in their life…

    Again, every family has the RIGHT to decide for themselves… I don’t diss those who vaccinate, that’s the choice that some have made and I respect that. I ask that you do the absolute same for those parents who don’t vaccinate… It’s the charitable thing to do…

  35. LauraP says:

    I believe it’s important to point out that since many parents stopped vaccinating their children due to autism fears, outbreaks of this and other serious diseases are breaking out more and more. Although people are learning that their is no vaccine/autism link, some parents di not trust what the government says and they insist (based on anecdotal evidence from other parents), that it is true. To these parents, I say this: Autism is not fatal. Not getting your child vaccinated might be. Autism has always showed up in children at around the same time certain vaccinations are offered. There is no connection. As an adult with high functioning autism, I am glad my parents vaccinated me. My quality of life is very good and even if your child is autistic, it is not a “doom and gloom” death sentence.

  36. LisaP. says:


    I understand your point of view, but can I pull the diabetes card? ;)
    My kid’s got Type 1 diabetes, it’s auto-immune, which means a person’s immune system attacks and destroys part of her own body. Her pancreatic beta cells were killed by her own immune system. In a nation where we have gone from a few vaccines to a young adult being encouraged to have over 70 doses of vaccine in her lifetime (with vaccines working by manipulating the immune system), it is rational for people to wonder if the dramatic rise in auto-immune like Type 1 or celiacs or thyroid disease might be connected with the dramatic rise in vaccine use.

    I don’t — don’t — believe the evidence indicates that the two are connected. But I think it’s reasonable for people to think it might.

    So where do I go with that? I look to health professionals who are supposed to understand it all, and take their advice. Except that in the area of vaccination policy, health professionals and government agencies have a proven record of deception.

    So, folks are left floundering in the dark, doing their best, and unsure how to weigh the risks because they don’t know who to trust.

    The day the medical establishment and CDC et al becomes unbiaed and trustworthy again, you’ll see people using vaccines differently. Honesty is the only thing that can turn around the trend of parents not vaccinating their kids.

    As an aside about fatality — catching whooping cough gives my child a small (small) risk of death. Taking an insulin injection gives my child a small (small) risk of death. Every single time. She gets 6 shots a day, every day. So, if I thought vaccines triggered Type 1, I’d most definitely risk whooping cough. Every choice has to be evaluated in the larger context of lifetime risks, unknown and unknowable risks, and benefits. Those of us who don’t trust that vaccines benefit us like the CDC says they do (I personally see no advantage to the chicken pox vaccine, which wears off just when chicken pox becomes more hazardous) and who don’t trust that vaccines don’t pose risks (I think the guy who did the autism study did poor science, but I think the CDC does poor science, too) do our best to juggle. Blaming parents making the best choice they can with limited information? At the very least it’s not effective — those parents won’t change their minds because you tell them they are causing outbreaks because the CDC told the newspapers they were causing outbreaks. We need to increase honesty and trust to solve this problem.

  37. r7blue1pink says:


    No Autism-vaccine link? There are already studies pointing to the Aborted Fetal DNA in the vaccines… MErcury was debunked and rightly so… but the aborted fetal DNA is the issue at hand.

    Dr Deisher is an outstanding devout Catholic who is doing the research and studies as I write this.. Thus far her research has shown that the amount of DNA in the vaccines is not only alarming, but very problematic.

    I suggest that you view and explore her work: http://www.soundchoice.org/education.html

    Secondly, for those that vaccinate, your kids are the ones “allegedly” protected so there is no chance of your child contracting an illness from our non-vaccinated children- unless you are admitting the vaccines don’t actually work so everyone has to have the vaccine…

    Again, its parental choice….that is what I wholly support and always have..

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