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Pertussis: Are You Protected?: March 1, 2011

From the time we are babies, vaccines are used to defend our bodies against dangerous infections and health conditions such as pertussis. "But as you get older, it wears off and we find that pertussis is coming back in adults and so usually that has to be treated," says Lee Memorial Health System internal medicine physician, Dr. Aldith Lewis. "We have to be careful because we can pass that on to our children, especially young kids."

Dr. Lewis recommends every parent check with their child's pediatrician to make sure their vaccine schedule is up to date. And when was the last time you had your shot? You may want to review your own records with your physician. "It's highly contagious. The vaccine is the best prevention."

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, developes when bacteria get into the body's respiratory system. The bacteria then multiple and form a thick mucus that leads to a harsh cough. "Its usually persistent cough, barking, some people get a little shortness of breath with it so that type of cough needs to be evaluated and treated and usually the treatment is an antibiotic," adds Dr. Lewis.

The vaccine itself has had a makeover of sorts to safeguard against pertussis which is why Dr. Lewis urges everyone to make sure they are up to date with their vaccines.