Friday, July 20, 2012

Whooping cough cases approaching highest levels in half a century in U.S.

2012 might be a record year for whooping cough in the United States if midyear trends continue. Nearly 18,000 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so far this year - the highest rates in five years.

"That's more than twice as many as we had at the at the same time last year," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. "We may need to go back to 1959 to find a year with as many cases reported by this time so far, " she said Thursday.

Pertussis is a highly contagious illness caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis. It easily spreads from person to person when people cough or sneeze. It starts out with symptoms very similar to a cold, but a week or two later, a violent cough develops. It's better known as whooping cough because of the "whooping" sound those infected make when they are violently coughing over and over again and try to inhale. Read More