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Whooping cough, also called "pertussis," is hitting the Pacific Northwest. Parents need to take immediate steps to protect their families from this potentially fatal illness. Thus far, 1,100 people in Washington have become sickened, with many children being sent to the hospital. Cases are beginning to emerge in Lane County, and everyone is at risk, especially very young children.

Pertussis is a contagious bacterial illness spread by respiratory droplets in the air. The symptoms start with congestion and cough, which worsen over 1-2 weeks. The cough increases to spasms of severe coughing with sharp inspiratory breaths that sound like a "whoop." This intense phase can last several weeks, followed by a months-long recovery period.

Unfortunately, young infants under 6 months may develop much more severe symptoms, including poor feeding, lethargy and episodes of not breathing (apnea) with blue or purple skin color. These young children are at risk of dying from whooping cough. A similar epidemic in California took the lives of 10 babies in 2010.

Please take the following steps to protect your family as soon as possible:

  • • Immunize your young infants. We encourage you to come to Eugene Pediatrics for your child's first set of vaccines at 6 weeks old (instead of waiting until the 2 month well baby checkup). Call us today to make an appointment.
  • • Immunize older children. Kids 11 years old should receive a tdaP booster shot to protect them. If your child has not been vaccinated or has not received a booster, please call us today to arrange the vaccine.
  • • Immunize yourself and other adult caregivers to protect your children. Anyone age 19 years and older needs a single tdaP shot, which can be administered by your primary care physician or Lane County Public Health Department.
  • • If your child is sick with worsening respiratory illness, please come and see us. Do not send your coughing child to school, camp or daycare.
  • • If you have an infant that is lethargic, feeding poorly or having blue spells, call 9-1-1 for IMMEDIATE medical help.
  • • Don't fool yourself. Staying inside, away from crowds and hand washing will not adequately protect your child from pertussis. The risks associated with the disease vastly outweigh the risk associated with whooping cough vaccination. Talk to us today about any worries you have about giving your child shots to stop the spread of pertussis.

Learn more from Dr. Bradshaw in this interview with KMTR NewsSource 16, as she shares information about the whooping cough epidemic and how to keep your children safe.