Infectious diseases: Pertussis (or Whooping Cough)

Your teenager may need a boost

Childhood vaccination is an accepted part of Canadian society. But recent evidence suggests that teenagers require a booster shot for three potentially serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

Babies and children are vaccinated against all three of these diseases, however recently there has been tremendous growth in the number of adolescents and young adults developing pertussis. As a result, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend pertussis vaccination for adolescents and adults.

Pertussis is caused by germs that get into the throat and lungs. In teenagers, a mild case of whooping cough can result in a bad cough that can last two to three weeks. More serious cases can last 6 to 12 weeks and involve a cough so serious that people can’t breathe.

Pertussis is highly contagious and spreads easily from infected persons through germs that are released into the air through coughing and sneezing. The closer the contact you have with an infected person the more likely you are to contract pertussis. As a result there is a high risk of infected adults and teenagers infecting young family members who have not yet been vaccinated against the disease.

This is particularly serious since pertussis can be very serious for young babies. Babies with whooping cough may have spells where they can’t breathe, seizures and may go into a coma. Infants under one year old usually have to be hospitalized. One in 400 babies who get whooping cough will end up with brain damage and 1 in 100 will die.

This pertussis vaccine is given by your doctor and in school-based programs. Talk to your doctor if you have more questions about this vaccine. PC

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