Whooping cough is getting a lot of press lately, but according to Dr. Paul Schadler, it’s nothing to worry about.
Schadler, medical director of the Health Center at Auraria, said that 10 to 32 percent of adults and adolescents suffering from a cough for more than seven days have whooping cough, or pertussis.
“In adults it’s not a very dangerous disease at all,” Schadler said. “You just don’t like it because you cough for a long time. The Chinese name for pertussis is ‘cough of a hundred days.’”
It’s not a dangerous cough, but you don’t sleep very well and it just drives you crazy.”
Around 1,200 cases of pertussis have been reported in Colorado since the first of the year, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
While averages this year are higher than the monthly average over the past five years, Schadler said this year’s numbers look a lot like the numbers of pertussis cases in 2005.
“There’s no reason [the numbers] should be higher one year than the next,” Schadler said. “You have good years and you have bad years.”
Because it is impossible for a patient to tell the difference between a bad cold and pertussis, Schadler said that many cases go unreported.
He said the medical community is getting better at diagnosing the disease, but that tests for pertussis are expensive, not all that accurate, and tend to return results after it’s too late to start treatment.
“Patients should be treated within the first two to five days or you’re not doing them any good,” Schadler said. “Testing everyone who comes in with a cough is expensive, and by the time the results come back, it’s too late to treat them. If you give everyone who comes in antibiotics, you create antibiotic-resistant organisms.”
A fact sheet put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pertussis vaccinations for all age groups, but does not mention that treatment is ineffective after seven days.
Schadler said that the Health Center at Auraria has found a balance by treating non-stop coughing rather than coughing as a whole.
“All adults, especially those who are around infants should be immunized,” Schadler said. “Those little tiny babies, the one- two- and three-month-olds can actually die from pertussis.”
Schadler believes that there have been cases of pertussis on campus, but they are cases that have not been proven because the patients were treated rather than tested.
He encourages students to avoid pertussis by staying current with their tetanus shots which have been combines with the pertussis vaccine for the past five years.