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Misdiagnosis of Whooping Cough in Adults Can be Lethal to Babies and Young Children

When we are young, we are vaccinated from all sorts of medical diseases and conditions that are spread bacterially and virally. Vaccinations have made a significant change in the protection offered to babies and children that was not offered earlier, at the turn of the 20th century. Prior to the 1950s, whooping cough, also known as pertussis and resulting from the bacterium Bordatella pertussis that lives in the human respiratory tract, was a common killer of young children. The vaccines against pertussis are usually administered early in babies in a series of four injections: at 2 months, 4 months, 5 months, and at 15 and 18 months of age. Booster shots are encouraged in older children and teenagers, who, after receiving the third dose, are 80% immune from the bacteria. Older children, teenagers, and adults may still get pertussis but it presents as a mild cold.

Adult Incidences of Pertussis on the Rise

Pertussis, according to some studies, has changed and adapted since the advent of the vaccination. According to a 2010 study written up in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), whooping cough, which was almost always a childhood disease, has now become more common in young adults and adults. Half the cases that are being cited in the United States are from teens and adults. Pertussis, for many unknown reasons, has also been on the rise in recent years. In 2014, there was a 15% increase in cases as compared to 2013, with 32,971 cases of pertussis.

The True Victim of a Pertussis Misdiagnosis

The fear, however, is not for teens and adults who are suffering from whooping cough, but for those exposed to the bacterium. For many doctors and medical professionals, there is a belief that adults who are demonstrating symptoms of respiratory strain are suffering from the common cold. Whooping cough in adults generally tends to be misdiagnosed as a common cold, or in more severe cases, as bronchitis. What can be lethal about this misdiagnosis is not due to the suffering of the adult from whooping cough, but the adult transmitting the whooping cough to a vulnerable baby, who has not yet started or finished the series of vaccinations against pertussis. Pertussis has been cited as being highly contagious and an unvaccinated person has a 90% chance of catching pertussis if a family member in the same household brings the infection home.

Pertussis, when it affects babies under the age of 1 year, can have a devastating effect. Children that are under the one year mark present with serious symptoms that can lead to hospitalization, bouts of restricted and stopped breathing, pneumonia (one in eight babies), and a small minority (1%) have seizures.

How to Protect Children from Pertussis and How to Correctly Diagnose Whooping Cough

For this reason, it is important that whooping cough in adults and teens is diagnosed correctly to curb the onslaught of younger, more vulnerable populations from getting sick, and possibly dying as a result. To determine whether someone has pertussis, it is important to first find the characteristic cough and whoop which usually make diagnosis more obvious. Additionally, with suspicions of whooping cough, the swabs should be given to the back of the throat for analysis. Finally, maintaining consistent immunity and boosters of the vaccines will help protect you, your family, and any other person who may be directly or indirectly affected. The vaccines generally fade after three to five years, and those who are pregnant or may be in contact with babies should receive the booster for additional protection.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

Pertussis is highly contagious and the real victim are babies and children who are exposed as a result of an adult who contracted whooping cough and was unaware of his or her diagnosis. If a child or baby was injured as a result of a doctor’s misdiagnosis of whooping cough, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.

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