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Monday, June 7, 2010

Get your Pertussis

I was asked to get a whooping cough vaccination today. I originally didn't want to get it because I had always thought it was eradicated. However, upon further research, I learned that scientists say it would be eradicated if not for a scare in the early 1990s that caused some parents to not allow their children to get the vaccine.

I understand the scares, since there were many studies done that show that the pertussis vaccine has been linked to asthma and allergies. In fact, according to this article and others like it I've found across the web, there is an almost 50% likelihood those who get the vaccine will develop asthma later in life.

While the New York Times and other credible sources note there is "no credible link between vaccines and asthma and that credible studies show this", I have yet to find these studies on the web. However, I've found many studies that show the vaccines are linked to asthma. In a strange way, it almost appears there is an attempt by the media, the FDA and other sources to hide data that show a link between asthma and vaccinations, or to ignore research.

The reason many think vaccines cause asthma is because the hygiene hypothesis theorizes that one of the reasons people develop asthma is because their immune systems are not exposed to bacteria and parasites needed for it to develop properly. This theory holds some credibility, since asthma increased by 75% between 1980 and 1995, the same time vaccinations were on the rise in the United States.

Still, I find that this is NOT reason enough to not to get your vaccination, especially if you work in the medical field or have small children at home. If small children get pertussis, there is a good likelihood they will die. Asthma, on the other hand, can be managed -- death is permanent.

Likewise, according to this post at Science News, In an article, co-authored by Charles J. Hackett, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Paul Offit, who lead a study on this subject, was interviewed:
"The hygiene hypothesis does not fit vaccine-related diseases. Vaccines do not prevent most common childhood infections, such as upper and lower respiratory tract infections, that form the basis of the hygiene hypothesis. On the other hand, vaccine-preventable infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough are easily transmitted regardless of home hygiene. 'The flaws in using this biological mechanism to explain a link between vaccines and allergies are inconsistent with large-scale epidemiological studies,' Dr. Paul Offit said. "Those studies found no evidence that vaccines increase the risk of asthma, food allergies, or other allergic disorders.'
Thus, many of those children who did not get the vaccine in after these studies started coming out in the early 1990s are coming into doctor's offices and emergency rooms today with symptoms of whooping cough. This puts all of us at risk for spreading the deadly virus.

Since the vaccine is usually good for up to seven years, any person who has the potential to be exposed to the bacteria is "recommended" or "encouraged" to get the vaccine.

Actually, the whooping cough, or pertussis as it's appropriately named, presents as nothing more than a bad cough in adults. But in children the the bacteria (Bordetella pertussis, which a normal bacteria in human throats) has a tendency to be more serious, and it is for this reason that adults should get re-vaccinated -- to prevent them from spreading it to children they are exposed to.

According to Dr. Reddy's Pedicatric Office on the Web, "In small children the cough, which comes in bouts or 'paroxysms', can make someone literally breathless, and they usually have to take a quick deep breath or 'whoop' at the end of the paroxysm -- thus the term 'whooping cough'"

He also notes:
"The danger of whooping cough is that in small babies (usually under 6 months, definitely under 2 months, and especially ex-premies) the paroxysms may leave
them not just breathless but without oxygen. Because of this danger we often have to intubate small babies and put them on ventilators until they get over the infection -- and this is made harder because the cough can be so forceful that a baby can cough the tube right out of the windpipe."
So this explains the urgency that medical professionals -- especially those exposed to small children either at home or at work -- take the time to get the booster shot. Likewise, anyone in close contact with you or your siblings are also treated such as classmates, day care children, etc.

Pertussis can be treated with a variety of antibiotics, although if one person in the family is suspected to have it everyone is treated to prevent the germ from being spread back and forth, and to attempt to eradicate it from the home.

Dr. Ready notes that once you have the treatment you stop being contagious after five days. If you do not take antibiotics, you are advised not to return to work or school for all of 21 days.

Although, "We can also immunize against B. pertussis, which is much better since the treatment for an active infection takes a while to work, during which the coughing persists.

Most of us were given the original four doses at 12-18 months and then at ages 2, 4, and 6. Then one should get a booster every 5-10 years. The vaccine does not work for children under 2 months, which is why it's important to make sure the rest of the family and any one in contact with small children are kept vaccinated.

And because some folks decided on their own to not get the vaccine (particularly in the early 1990s), the disease is making a comeback. It is for this reason I was asked to get my booster today, and I rightfully volunteered to do so.

The shot does hurt, and your arm will hurt for a few days. According to the Mayo Clinic, side effects include fever and crankiness (in children and whiny adults) or soreness at the site of the injection. In rare cases, severe side effects may occur, including: Persistent crying, lasting more than three hours, high fever, seizures, shock or coma.

Although it should be duly noted that the advantages of getting the vaccine far outweigh the risks. If you're a medical worker who works around infants or if you have one at home, make sure you get your vaccine today or when it is offered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I had a classmate who got whooping cough in seventh grade, and it sounded awful. She would have to spend the night in the shower in order to breath. I myself worked with kids with HIV, and have respiratory issues myself, so got it last year. I did have to laugh though when the ID doctor I worked with diagnosed my co-worker with possible pertusis, only because he's an ID doctor...of course he thought of that!