Why whooping cough scares me!

I freely admit that ever since my son was born almost 2 years ago, I am a little obsessed with whooping cough. I don't know why; maybe it is all the commercials on TV, maybe it is because of what I do for a living and the fact that I'm constantly reminded that Latinos are at higher risk; maybe because I leave him with a babysitter all day and I am focusing all my anxiety over a stranger with my baby (even if she is Latina) into this one disease. Either way, I know a bit about it and now I have even more reason to worry.

Whooping cough has officially been deemed an epidemic in Jefferson County, Washington and outbreaks have been reported in Boulder, Colorado. Top that with the news a few months ago that whooping cough vaccines may no longer be affective after three years makes for a scary scenario, especially if you are Latino.


Whooping cough, also knows as pertussis, has been on the rise the recent years, particularly in California, and Latino children have been the hardest hit. Why our niños and what is whooping cough? Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that is highly contagious--if one family member has it there is an 80% chance that the rest of the family will come down with it. Whooping cough is characterized by a cough followed by a "whoop" sound and is potentially fatal in children. (Listen to the sound here if you have no idea what I mean by "whoop"--I didn't either at first.)

Our hijos are particularly at risk for two reasons. One, the adults around our kids are likely to have out-of-date vaccines, or no vaccines at all because many Latin American countries don't follow the same vaccination schedule as the United States (meaning all those lovely ladies at church who share baby clothes and babysit while you HAVE to work may not be protected). And two, Latinos in the United States are more likely to live in a crowded house, with 6 or 7 relatives, and the disease spreads easily. Too
much togetherness!

While the recent focus of TV commercials like this has been on infants and parents being vaccinated, this new information suggests that preschoolers should also be re-vaccinated.

Great! But I can't ask my babysitter to re-vaccinate her kids, can I? What should I do?

Images via Flickr/ryanboren