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Medical Advice for Pertussis - Whooping Cough
January 03, 2024

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is tracking a pertussis outbreak primarily among students in the Stroudsburg area. Pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough, is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease that is particularly dangerous for young children, especially infants.

Before the availability of a vaccine in the 1940s, pertussis was one of the most common childhood diseases worldwide and a major cause of childhood mortality in the United States. Even today, half of infants with pertussis will be hospitalized.

St. Luke’s Pediatrics Chairman Jennifer Janco, MD, offers the following advice to parents:

  1. Make sure you and your family are vaccinated. If you are a pregnant mother, get your Tdap vaccine to protect your newborn since he/she won’t able to start the pertussis vaccine series until 2 months of age.
  2. If you or your child has symptoms compatible with pertussis and/or has been exposed to the contagion at school or elsewhere, contact your primary care doctor or pediatrician before going to a hospital ER or urgent care center, where you could infect others. Your primary care doctor or pediatrician may be able to perform an assessment and prescribe medication by phone or video.
  3. If you have pertussis or are awaiting your pertussis test results, isolate at home for five days after starting antibiotics to limit further spread. St. Luke’s will provide notes for work or school as needed.

Dr. Janco noted that diagnosing upper respiratory illnesses this time of year is challenging.

Pertussis has many similarities with other respiratory infections currently circulating in the community, such as influenza or Covid or the common cold. Contacting your health care provider for further guidance on your symptoms and risk is the best next step.

However, in cases when a diagnosis of pertussis is confirmed, all contacts living in the household should be treated with antibiotics to prevent further spread. Certain other high-risk contacts may qualify for treatment as well.

Additional information is available on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html