Is whooping cough really making a comeback?

Filed under: Places To Go, Health & Safety: Babies

According to government health officials, the number of cases of whooping cough in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 2001. Well, maybe not. That huge jump in cases of whooping cough has been called into question after the diagnostic tests administered in several states were found to be faulty.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a potentially deadly bacterial respiratory infection for which there is a vaccine. To accurately test for whooping cough, at least a week is required to grow the bacteria from a sample from the patient's nose or throat. Since the disease is contagious, that is often too long to wait before taking action, so a quicker, less accurate test is often administered. Nearly half of the 26,000 cases reported in 2005 were diagnosed with a less accurate method that has now been called into question.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now planning a study that will hopefully result in improved and standardized methods of faster testing. Dr. Tom Clark, a CDC epidemiologist, believes that despite the faulty testing, there may really have been an increase in whooping cough, with many cases being undiagnosed. In the meantime, Clark says people should still be getting their pertussis vaccinations.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.