From this week’s New England Journal of Medicine:
So what are the causes of today’s high prevalence of pertussis? First, the timing of the initial resurgence of reported cases (see graph) suggests that the main reason for it was actually increased awareness. What with the media attention on vaccine safety in the 1970s and 1980s, the studies of DTaP vaccine in the 1980s, and the efficacy trials of the 1990s comparing DTP vaccines with DTaP vaccines, literally hundreds of articles about pertussis were published. Although this information largely escaped physicians who care for adults, some pediatricians, public health officials, and the public became more aware of pertussis, and reporting therefore improved.
Whooping cough is a dreadful illness for all those who get it. For older kids and adults, it is sometimes referred to as “one hundred day cough.” That’s 3 months of fits of coughing until you can’t take a breath. Adults suffer broken ribs from coughing so hard. But it is the youngest infants who are not yet or only partially immunized who suffer the most. And, according to James Cherry, M.D. at UCLA:
Of particular concern are the frightening rates of complications and death associated with pertussis in unimmunized young infants.