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Home > Health Topics > Podcasts > Preventing the spread of whooping cough (pertussis)

Preventing the spread of whooping cough (pertussis)

June 16, 2010

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

More pertussis information

Earlier this year, a 3-month-old suffering from a cough attack was rushed to the hospital. It turned out she was infected with a severe respiratory disease called pertussis, or whooping cough.

This child is not alone. She is one of many children in Contra Costa County affected by a recent spike in this potentially deadly disease.

Hello, I'm Dr. William Walker, Director of Contra Costa Health Services and County Health Officer. I want to talk about whooping cough and how you can help prevent its spread.

We're only halfway through 2010 and we've already seen more whooping cough than we saw in all of 2009. Across the Bay Area, cases of whooping cough are up roughly 600 percent from last year.

These troubling numbers show the importance of getting immunized. And immunizations are not just for kids. About half the time an infant gets whooping cough, it is from an infected parent or relative.

We want everyone around infants to be vaccinated. This means parents, grandparents, siblings and anyone else who takes care of a child. Adults should get immunized to protect themselves, their children and the community. Even adults who were immunized as children should receive a booster shot, it's called Tdap.

Pertussis coughing fits can last several minutes and symptoms could last for weeks or months. The germ that causes whooping cough is spread when someone coughs or sneezes. In addition to coughing, symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and occasionally a low fever.

Sometimes coughing fits can be so severe they cause broken ribs, vomiting or shortness of breath.

There is a chance the number of cases could grow. Whooping cough often peaks in August, so I urge everyone to get immunized now. Contact your health provider to find out where you can get the vaccine for yourself and your child. Free Tdap vaccine is also available from our Public Health Immunization clinics. Find the nearest location and more information about pertussis on our website,

Thanks for listening.

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