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More whooping cough infections, but how dangerous is the disease?

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a respiratory infection caused by a bacterium. The bacterium produces a toxin, causing coughing. These cough showers can last 3 to 4 months. Whooping cough is therefore also called the 100-day cough called. The time between infection and the first symptoms is usually 7 to 10 days.

Between 4,000 and 10,000 cases of whooping cough are reported per year to the Municipal Health Service, but the actual number is probably much higher. According to the GGD, more than 100 babies with whooping cough are admitted to hospital every year in the Netherlands. These are often newborn, unvaccinated babies. Some die from the disease.

According to immunologist Diavatopoulos from Radboudumc in Nijmegen, the number of whooping cough infections has been increasing for years. "That's because the bacterium that causes whooping cough has adapted to the vaccine and can therefore actually escape a little. But also because we have been using a different vaccine since 2005. That gives fewer side effects and protects well against getting sick, but less against infection. "

Reporter Annemieke Schakelelaar spoke with immunologist Diavatopoulos of the Radboudumc (text continues below the video):

What are the symptoms of the disease?

The symptoms of whooping cough initially resemble those of common nose cold. Then the coughing begins. This can result in prolonged coughing, which leads to wheezing. Tough mucus is also coughed up and the patient sometimes has to vomit. Whooping cough can also cause pneumonia.

The disease can be very serious in young babies who have not yet been vaccinated. They can get oxygen deficiency or bleeding from the brain, which can cause brain damage. Very young babies can sometimes stop breathing or discolour blue, without coughing a lot.

Some people with whooping cough do not have the typical symptoms, as described above. Older (vaccinated) children and adults often only cough for a long time.

How do you become infected?

People can infect each other through coughing, because the bacteria spreads through the air through small drops of moisture from the nose and mouth. The largest source of infection for newborn babies is the mother, followed by older brothers and sisters.

Someone can get whooping cough several times in his life. An infection with the whooping cough bacterium therefore does not protect against a subsequent infection with this bacterium.

How do you prevent whooping cough?

Whooping cough was one of the leading causes of death among young children until vaccination was introduced. Since 1957 all children in the Netherlands have been offered a vaccination against whooping cough through the Dutch national vaccination program. Babies from the age of two months get an injection against the disease at the clinic

Vaccination provides protection for a number of years, but not completely. That is why not only babies, but also young children are vaccinated against whooping cough.

All pregnant women will be offered a whooping cough vaccination from the end of 2019. Until then, such a shot is for your own account. By vaccinating pregnant women, young babies are immediately protected from birth.

Whoever has whooping cough is best coughed and sneezed in an elbow cavity or handkerchief. Ventilating or regularly airing reduces the risk of the disease.

Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics, but often the bacteria is no longer present if it is clear that it is whooping cough. Treatment with antibiotics then no longer makes sense. That is why vaccination protection is important.

Source: National Institute for Public Health and the Environment / GGD.

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