The United States is on course for a record year for whooping cough, and the CDC reports Jersey is one of 18 states with a whooping cough outbreak.

State epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan says, “Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is caused by infection with bacteria…Basically it’s a cough- illness that can be very serious, and potentially life-threatening…Some of the early symptoms can include runny nose, low-grade fever, mild cough during the first and second week of the illness, and the illness then tends to progress to more serious symptoms including fits of rapid coughs followed by what’s called a whoop – it’s a high pitched sound.”

She says, “Some of the other later symptoms include vomiting and exhaustion – simply from the exertion of such severe coughing…Vaccines are still the safest and most effective way of preventing whooping cough because it is a vaccine-preventable disease.”

Dr. Tan adds, “The CDC recommends that adults who are 19 to 64 years of age should get a one-time dose of pertussis vaccine in place of the tetanus-diphtheria booster – that they’re recommended to get every 10 years…It has been shown that there is a waning immunity- that the protection from the vaccine might wear off as people get older…We have seen an increase in reported pertussis – whooping cough case statewide, and we’ve actually been seeing an increase nationwide as well.”

She also points out in people with compromised immune systems, “it could potentially cause serious illnesses that could require hospitalization and could also result in death…So stay home when you’re sick to prevent spreading illness, whether it’s whooping cough or other diseases to the community.”

For more information on whooping cough, you can visit the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services website.