Pertussis (Whooping Cough)


Last updated Pertussis, or whooping cough, is caused by the bacterium bortadella pertussis. It infects the lungs and airways and causes symptoms which normally start with persistent coughing and which can develop to bouts of coughs that last so long, that when the patient eventually gets to breath in again, a whooping sound can be heard. Not everyone develops the severe cough and some develop no symptoms at all. Pertussis is spread through the droplets in sneezes and coughs and is very contagious. At worst pertussis can cause pneumonia and death. Babies under the age of 1 are most at risk. In recent years (2013-15) official statistics show 3-5 deaths a year from pertussis and all of them were under 1. According to the NHS website, incidents of whooping cough have reduced dramatically since the vaccine was introduced.[1] The figures show that the vaccine may have indeed contributed to the fall, although hardly “dramatically” so, as the number of notifications had been falling for some time. The number of deaths from whooping cough had already fallen by 99% before the vaccine was introduced. When considering whether to vaccinate, it is important to note that getting whooping cough naturally, really does make the patient immune to the disease for the rest of their lives. The vaccine does not, and has been struggling with “waning immunity” and low effectiveness (ranging from 13% – 85% effectiveness) [2,3,10,11,12]. This is thought to be due to the body producing a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin A (IgA) only when pertussis is naturally contracted. This means that if the vaccine is used, boosters are required to “refresh” the “immunity”. The more research is being done, the more it is becoming clear that unless we keep vaccinating against pertussis for the rest of a person’s life, immunity…

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