INTERVIEW: Whooping cough on the rise

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It is an illness that parents of this generation probably thought they would never have to deal with…whooping cough is making a big comeback in Virginia. The disease characterized by severe coughing that ends with a "whooping sound" has gone up 72 percent in just one year.

Doctor Parham Jaberi is the director of the Chesterfield Health District. He joins us now to talk about this.

Ryan Nobles: Doctor, thank you for being here.

Parham Jaberi: Thank you for having me.

Ryan Nobles:  This was a big problem back in the 1930s but that was before a vaccine was developed. Why is it making a comeback?

Parham Jaberi: Pertussis rates go up and down. They have a cyclical pattern of every three to five years and since 2007, we've now been on that uprise, so you see that relative increase from just a couple hundred to now over 350 cases for last year. So because we have smaller numbers, we see a large relative increase, but that cycle has been ongoing. Some of the going series right now is that the vaccine, even though there's one available for it, the immunity wanes over time, so people need to get that booster shot in their adulthood and we've been pushing that in the health department.

Ryan Nobles:  And that's something parents done realize. You think of getting a vaccine for your child, but something the parents can benefit from as well.

Parham Jaberi: It is and the reason that's important is because oftentimes a child is getting from an older sibling, from the parents, so they need to be protected. When you vaccinate yourself, you protect yourself from getting the disease, but you also prevent the spread in the community and that's really important for those young children or infants who haven't finished their vaccination course.

Ryan Nobles: And how dangerous is it if your child contracts pertussis? Is it a something to be worried about?

Parham Jaberi: It is a concern. For infants and young children particularly, one in five requires a hospital stay and it can potentially be fatal. Because it's a vaccine preventable disease, we feel from the health department and clinician perspective, that we can avoid many of these instances.

Ryan Nobles: So if your child does contract whooping cough, is the vaccine the path you should take right away.

Parham Jaberi: That's the early step. If they develop the symptoms and it begins just like many other cold symptoms, runny nose, congested eyes, cough, and if it's not treated early on, you get into that whooping stage where you develop the sudden cough outbursts and the child is struggling and short of breath. At that point, it's very point in time to get them treated and the good news is there is an antibiotic treatment but is requires the parents to recognize the symptoms and also the healthcare provider, because it does look like a lot of common viruses.

Ryan Nobles: Excellent information, doctor. We appreciate you being here.

Parham Jaberi: Thank you.

See the video at right for the full interview.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.