Saturday, April 14, 2007

What the heck is Pertussis?

I met with a specialist yesterday - a pulmonologist - and the verdict is Pertussis with bronchitis. I had never heard of Pertussis, but I knew it didn't sound good. Turns out it is the adult version of Whooping Cough. So we are back to that now. I should be past the point of being contagious now, but the specialist and my primary doctor have decided I am not to be working at all for at least the next two to three weeks. I am taking a new stack o' medicines - inhalers, antibiotics, cough suppressants, and steroids. Other than that, the treatment is to rest and not do anything physically stressful. Failure to let my body recover and heal might mean full-blown pneumonia, and that is something I can do without, thank you very much.

Now, about that Pertussis...

What Is Pertussis or Whooping Cough?
  • Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious disease marked by severe coughing. It is named after the "whoop" sound children and adults sometimes make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell.
What are the Symptoms?
  • Whooping cough usually starts with cold- or flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, fever, and a mild cough. These symptoms can last up to 2 weeks and are followed by increasingly severe coughing spells. Fever, if present, is usually mild.

  • During a classic coughing spell:
    - signature "whoop" is heard as the patient struggles to breathe
    - coughs usually produce a thick, productive mucus
    - vomiting may occur
    - lips and nails may turn blue due to lack of oxygen
    - patient is left exhausted after the coughing spell

  • Mild pertussis disease is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of a cold. Usually a prolonged cough is present, but without the "whoop.”

  • Milder symptoms usually affect all age groups, but are increasing among school children.

  • The coughing attacks may last for many months in the "classic illness" or just a few days in the mild form of the disease. The Chinese refer to whooping cough as the “cough of 100 days.”

  • Symptoms appear between 6 to 21 days (average 7-10) after exposure to the bacteria.
More information here.