Whooping cough (Pertussis) is not just a childhood disease. Pertussis mainly affects infants, un-immunized children and elderly adults. Complications include pneumonia, ear infection, vomiting and dehydration if left untreated.
Whooping cough may not be diagnosed in adults because the typical signs, especially the "whoop" part of the cough, maybe not be present. A whooping cough epidemic is already underway. In California 4,400 cases of the highly contagious illness have been reported. The Centers for Disease and Prevention and Control reports 11,466 cases nationwide.
Whooping cough is a respiratory infection caused by the bordetella pertussis bacterium. It is an airborne disease that can be spread through direct contact or through inhaling it in the air—someone sneezes and the germs are sprayed into the air and you breathe them in.
Studies show that undiagnosed family members are the most likely to infect infants with whooping cough. Infants (6 months old and younger) are the most vulnerable to this disease and they are too young to be immunized.
According to the Mayo Clinic, once you become infected with whooping cough it takes three days to two weeks for signs and symptoms to appear:
After a week or two, symptoms worsen. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:
Sometimes people (infants, adolescents and adults) do not develop the characteristic whoop. The cough can simply be persistent and hacking.
If your parent has a persistent cough, runs a low fever, coughs up phlegm or has any of the above symptoms, he or she must be seen by a doctor. Treatment may be with antibiotics to kill the bacteria plus cough medicines.