Whooping Cough Outbreak In The UK; Symptoms, Prevention Of The Highly Contagious Respiratory Tract Infection

UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) has warned people that UK might see a rise in the number of whooping cough cases as the country reported 716 cases of the infection between July and November. Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection which usually affects infants and children. Read on to know more about the infection, its risk factors, causes, symptoms and preventive measures.
Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough Outbreak In The UK

The UK has been hit with an outbreak of whooping cough, reporting 716 cases of the condition between July and November. The UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) has warned people that the country might see a rise in the number of cases. It is important to get children vaccinated which can help protect them. The spread of the disease had significantly reduced during the coronavirus lockdown and due to social distancing. Now, these are not present which means there could be a rise in the number of cases.
UKHSA’s Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam said, “As expected, we are now seeing cases of whooping cough increase again, so it's vital pregnant women ensure they get vaccinated to protect their baby.”
According to Mayo Clinic, “Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. In many people, it's marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like ‘whoop.’
“Before the vaccine was developed, whooping cough was considered a childhood disease. Now whooping cough primarily affects children too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations and teenagers and adults whose immunity has faded.
“Deaths associated with whooping cough are rare but most commonly occur in infants. That’s why it's so important for pregnant women — and other people who will have close contact with an infant — to be vaccinated against whooping cough.”

What are the causes of whooping cough?

Whooping cough, also known as Pertussis is caused by a type of bacteria known as Bordetella pertussis. “When an infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny germ-laden droplets are sprayed into the air and breathed into the lungs of anyone who happens to be nearby,” says Mayo Clinic.

What are the risk factors of whooping cough?

Infants and children are given vaccines for whopping cough, however, as you grow older, this tends to wear off. You then become susceptible to the infection when there’s an outbreak.
“Infants who are younger than age 12 months who are unvaccinated or haven't received the full set of recommended vaccines have the highest risk for severe complications and death,” says Mayo Clinic.

What are the common symptoms of whooping cough?

People who get infected with whooping cough might not show any symptoms for seven to 10 days and some cases might take even longer. Here, take a look at some of the common symptoms of whooping cough.
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Fever
  • Cough
A few or two later, the signs and symptoms tend to worsen. “Thick mucus accumulates inside your airways, causing uncontrollable coughing. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:
  • Provoke vomiting
  • Result in a red or blue face
  • Cause extreme fatigue
  • End with a high-pitched ‘whoop’ sound during the next breath of air”
A lot of people might not develop the characteristic whoop, however, a persistent hacking cough is the only sign that an adolescent or adult has whooping cough. Some infants might not cough at all, however, they struggle to breathe and sometimes, they also stop breathing temporarily.

What are the complications caused due to whooping cough?

In most cases when teens and adults are affected with whooping cough, they recover from the condition without any problems. While the condition might not have any direct impact, the continuous coughing might lead to the following issues.
  • Bruised or cracked ribs
  • Abdominal hernias
  • Broken blood vessels in the skin or the whites of your eyes
Complications for infants under the age of 6 months might be severe. The complications might lead to;
  • Pneumonia
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Dehydration or weight loss due to feeding difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
According to Mayo Clinic, “Because infants and toddlers are at greatest risk of complications from whooping cough, they're more likely to need treatment in a hospital. Complications can be life-threatening for infants younger than 6 months old.”

What are the treatment options for whooping cough?

One of the best ways to prevent whooping cough is to take the pertussis vaccine which is usually a combination of vaccines that help to protect against two other diseases, diphtheria and tetanus. Doctors usually recommend beginning vaccination during infancy.
According to Mayo Clinic, “The vaccine consists of a series of five injections, typically given to children at these ages:
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15 to 18 months
  • 4 to 6 years”
The vaccine tends to have some side effects on children. The side effects include fever, crankiness, headache, fatigue or soreness at the site of the injection.
There are booster shots available that one can take at different stages in their life.
Adolescents
Because immunity from the pertussis vaccine tends to wane by age 11, doctors recommend a booster shot at that age to protect against whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria and tetanus.
Adults
Some varieties of the every-10-year tetanus and diphtheria vaccine also include protection against whooping cough (pertussis). This vaccine will also reduce the risk of transmitting whooping cough to infants.
Pregnant women
Health experts now recommend that pregnant women receive the pertussis vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation. This may also give some protection to the infant during the first few months of life.
Preventive measures
If you’ve been exposed to someone who has whooping cough, your doctor may recommend antibiotics to protect against the infection.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.
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