Count 2018 as the year of the vintage childhood virus: measles cases have been on the rise, recently, but it is not the only childhood virus to make a bit of a comeback this year.
Also known as whooping cough, pertussis cases have also been on the rise of late. Nicknamed such because of its characteristic symptom—a distinct and persistent bout of coughing—this is a respiratory infection that was all but eradicated until the last few years.
Indeed, it seems that US health officials had been successfully managing pertussis throughout the 1970s and 1980s with fewer than 2,000 cases reported between the two decades. In 2012, however, more than 48,000 were reported, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the number of cases has declined again, it is still nowhere near its lowest amounts from decades ago, after the pertussis vaccine was first introduced.
Unfortunately, it appears that unvaccinated children are the main contributor to the large uptick in both measles and pertussis cases.
The CDC warns that while pertussis can affect anyone—including teens and adults—it can result in very serious symptoms in children. These symptoms can begin within the five to ten days but sometimes can take as long as three weeks to appear. Primary symptoms resemble the common cold and can include runny nose, low-grade fever, and sporadic cough with apnea. Late-stage symptoms worsen into rapid coughs accompanied by high-pitched “whooping” sounds (some difficulty breathing) as well as vomiting and exhaustion.
More importantly, the CDC carefully persists upon the importance of vaccinating babies because pertussis in infants does not present with a cough. Instead, they simply stop breathing and turn blue (from asphyxiation), with very little warning.
Measles, of course, is a little easier to spot: it also begins with symptoms that resemble a common cold but eventually evolves into a more obvious flat red rash on the skin. Serious measles cases, while less common, can result in seizures, blindness, and even inflammation of the brain.
Again, the CDC attests the importance of vaccinating your children against common childhood diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough, and rubella. In addition, the CDC reminds adults the importance of getting booster shots, particularly during high risk times like this.