Whooping Cough and The Importance of Whooping Cough Vaccine During Pregnancy

Editorial Team

In January, 2017, The Guardian Nigeria reported that, Kebbi State has recorded 83 whooping cough and 35 measles cases in Yauri Local Government area of the state.

Mayoclinic defines whooping cough (pertussis) has a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It is marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like "whoop." This diseases is caused by a bacteria that affects the cilia and causes the airway to swell. The job of the cilia is to remove foreign matter from the air before it gets to the lungs.

According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, in 2015 there were 123,210 reported cases globally, 89,000 estimated deaths (2008), and 86% estimated coverage. Nigeria bears 4.5% of the global burden of Pertussis.

Pertussis illness is often described in two stages based on the symptoms and when coughing starts. Early symptoms (first 1-2 weeks) mainly ‘cold’ symptoms

  • Mild cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fever (low grade and not seen in all people)
  • Infants may have “apnea” which is a pause in breathing

Later symptoms (between 2-12 weeks)

  • Rapid coughing fits often followed by a loud high pitch “whooping” sound on breathing in.
  • Vomiting
  • Tired feeling after coughing fits and poor sleep.
  • Pertussis infection increases a person’s risk of developing pneumonia.
  • Infants can have seizures or irritation of the brain.
  • People can have low oxygen levels or pass out during coughing spells. Some can get rib fractures (cracked ribs) due to the force of coughing. The cough can last for 6-10 weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine for adolescents and adults (called Tdap vaccine) during the third trimester of each pregnancy. The recommended time to get the shot is your 27th through 36th week of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period.

After receiving the whooping cough vaccine, your body will create protective antibodies and pass some of them to your baby before birth. These antibodies provide your baby some short-term protection against whooping cough in early life.

The amount of whooping cough antibodies in your body decreases over time. When you get the vaccine during one pregnancy, your antibody levels will not stay high enough to provide enough protection for future pregnancies. It is important for you to get a whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy so that each of your babies gets the greatest number of protective antibodies from you and the best protection possible against this disease.

This early protection is important because your baby will not start getting his/her whooping cough vaccines until he/she is 2 months old.To continue protecting your baby, he/she should get whooping cough vaccines starting at 2 months old.

By breastfeeding, you may pass some antibodies you have made in response to the vaccine to your baby. When you get a whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy, you will have antibodies in your breast milk that you can share with your baby as soon as your milk comes in.

When whooping cough is particularly severe, you can die so it is advisable that you go to the hospital if you experience any of the symptoms. Also take note that some babies might not cough but would just turn blue which indicates that they are having trouble breathing and they should be taken to the hospital for test and treatment.




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