No Whoops of Joy for This Cough

When you hear the word pertussis, a commercial of a mother holding her coughing baby might come to mind. Whenever that image graces the television screen during a break in a Family Guy or Jersey Shore episode, I am sure the teenagers watching don’t think they will ever be at risk for such an ailment.

However, its prevalence in the minds of Verona students may have heightened since the Verona Schools website posted a notice entitled “Pertussis Letter,” that informed them of a case of the illness in our town.

Most are probably clueless as to what degree of caution they should take regarding the ailment, also known as “whooping cough”, and some may even be worried. Pertussis “is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing,” according to the New York Times. This disease earned its alias “whooping cough” because of the “whooping” sound that a victim makes when he/she tries to breathe.

This upper respiratory infection is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium that moves through the air with every cough or sneeze, which means that it can easily travel from person to person. The Times also calls it a “serious” disease that can cause permanent disability in infants, and sometimes even death.

When Senior Jordan Bronson was asked if she felt threatened by the news, she responded, “No, it’s for babies.” It is completely true that before vaccines for the sickness were widely available, only infants and young children suffered from it, but it is still important that Jordan and her peers take slight caution. Though now infrequently seen, the cases found are now usually in adolescents and adults. However,most people in this age group were treated with the vaccine as children.  

How do you know if you have pertussis? It is very possible that you would not even notice it in the first 10-12 days. In that time, the symptoms are similar to those of the common cold. However, the coughing spells that begin afterward can lead to vomiting or even short loss of consciousness. When these symptoms are not obvious, pertussis can be very hard to diagnose. Therefore, it is essential to visit your health care provider as soon as any suspicion arises.