There’s a “new” health risk you need to know about, and the name will be very familiar to your grandparents: Whooping cough. According to USA Today, whooping cough – also known as pertussis - is on the rise again in North America. It’s a contagious respiratory disease that gets its name from the deep “whoop” sound that some patients make each time they cough. Left untreated, whooping cough triggers intense coughing fits, which can last for several minutes at a time. The coughing can be so severe that some people feel the urge to vomit or have difficulty breathing! It’s the main reason whooping cough is so dangerous to children, because their bodies become so physically exhausted from coughing that they may stop breathing altogether.
The good news is that whooping cough is very easy to control with vaccines. In fact, ever since the first vaccine was introduced in the 1920s, a person’s risk of dying from whooping cough has been about one-in-a-million. However, without the vaccine, your risk skyrockets to one-in-1,500! What has so many doctors worried right now is the fact that more and more parents are deciding not to vaccinate their children. Some worry that immunization shots might contain mercury – which they fear may cause autism. Since 2001, mercury-based preservatives are no longer used in North America’s childhood vaccines. Other parents have the false impression that vaccines aren’t necessary. They assume that just because we don’t hear about people dying from diseases like whooping cough on the news, they must no longer be dangerous.
Know this: In third world countries, where vaccines are hard to find, whooping cough kills more than 600,000 people each year – mostly infants. In other words: Think twice about skipping vaccines. Ideally, infants should receive their first pertussis shot at about two months old, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommend that everyone between the ages of 11 and 64 talk to their doctor about getting a pertussis booster shot. That’ll provide 90% immunity against whooping cough.