Gwyneth Paltrow spread her cough around the globe in Contagion, but that fictional pandemic cant compare with the real whooping cough epidemic thats spreading across North America. In the first half of this year, there were more than 18,000 reported cases and were heading for the most since 1959 (40,000), when the vaccine was introduced.
Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is a bacterial infection that starts with cold-like symptoms, but after a week or two triggers coughing fits (whoops). Infected infants, who account for half the deaths from the disease, may cough slightly or not at all.
Why is whooping cough making a comeback? First, the newer formulation of the vaccine (since about 1996) seems to wear off sooner than the previous one, making people vulnerable. And most teens and adults dont get boosters; so they can get and spread the disease. Also, infants start the five-part vaccination at 2 months and are not immunized until they get the third shot.
To help stop this epidemic:
Have all infants fully vaccinated with DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis).
Get a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster. Its for kids 11-12 years old; everyone who has contact with pregnant women or infants; women before, during or immediately after pregnancy; and everyone 64 or older who has not had a booster within the past 10 years.
The You Docs Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic are authors of YOU: Losing Weight. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com. A King Features syndicate.