Monday, January 06, 2003

PUBLIC HEALTH ANNOUNCEMENT: My 3 month old daughter has pertussis (a.k.a whooping cough). I have discovered that nobody, especially physicians, knows much about pertussis, so for anyone who wants to know, here is my FAQ on the subject (derived mainly from WebMD, Pertussis.com and Dr. Greene.com). I was innoculated as a child, so what do I care? or I'm so ancient that there was no vaccine when I was a child, or my parents were some of those left- or right-wing nutjobs who though vaccination was a plot to make us fascists or communists, respectively, that I never got innoculated, so I actually had whooping cough as a child and am immune now, right? Nope. Pertussis immunity wears off. I'm not whooping, so it must be something else, right? Nope. Infants and adults often do not whoop. I have a lingering cough after a cold, but I feel fine otherwise, so I'm not contagious any more. If it is pertussis it is highly contagious until you go on an extended course of antibiotics. A study out of Vanderbilt University Medical Center showed that most coughs that linger more than 14 days are pertussis (which starts with cold-like symptoms), so if you have a lingering cough, go get yourself a two-week supply of erythromycin. Why didn't you get your child immunized? Are you paranoid [see above] or just incompetent? She had her first DTaP shot, but until you've had the full series of three DTaP shots, you are not immune. So drop dead. Isn't pertussis viral? Why would erythromycin help? While some doctors think pertussis is viral ("Why would I prescribe antibiotics for a viral infection?"), pertussis is caused by a bacterium, helpfully named bordetella pertussis. Got that, Mr. MD? Okay, I've taken my antibiotics, why am I still coughing? The antibiotics are to keep pertussis from being spread. Once you have it, you just have to wait it out. Tough rocks. How contagious is it really? It is very contagious. Some doctors recommend that if you've have spent a total of five hours in the same room with an infected person over the course of a week or sat next to an infected person for any length of time, you need to go on preventative antibiotics, because between 70 and 100 percent of susceptible people exposed to pertussis will catch it. Any other questions? Now, most important, if you are coughing, even if you feel perfectly fine between coughs, do not under any circumstances, ask to hold my @#$%*& small infant! Grrr. Got that?

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