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Respiratory viruses targeting children on the rise in Southern Colorado

Whooping Cough Vaccine
Posted at 9:33 AM, Oct 12, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — Respiratory illnesses targeting children are increasing nationwide and in Southern Colorado. Doctors are keeping their eyes on two main viruses: pertussis, more known as whooping cough, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

This year there have been 29 cases of whooping cough statewide, which is a large increase from the seven cases reported during the same time last year. Cases for both illnesses were very low in Colorado for the past two years because of COVID restrictions in place.

Pertussis (whooping cough)

Pertussis is a year-round infection that peaks during the fall and winter, mirroring the flu season. Doctors say this illness affects all ages but can be fatal to children and babies. The CDC says about half of the babies who get whooping cough end up in the hospital and most deaths happen in those younger than three months.

The beginning stages of whooping cough can seem like a normal cold at first, with a runny nose, cough, and fever. After about two weeks patients may develop a rapid and uncontrolled cough that can last up to six weeks. Doctors say if the cough develops you should call a doctor.
Dr. Bradley Stokes, a family practice doctor at Peak Vista, said the lasting cough makes pertussis different from other illnesses, but getting the vaccine can help ease symptoms.

"There have been some spikes in that [pertussis] in recent years and people do still get pertussis post-vaccination. But it's usually much less severe and oftentimes will go undetected if they're vaccinated because they never get seen because it's another one of those kind of cold illnesses that just kind of go away," Dr. Stokes said.

Whooping Cough Vaccine
The CDC recommends that children, adults, and pregnant women get the pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine to lessen symptoms.

The CDC recommends children get five doses of the whooping cough vaccine, called DTaP, to protect them against possible extreme symptoms. Children should get five doses of the vaccine before their seventh birthday, with a dose at two months, four months, and six months. A booster is needed for children between 15 to 18 months and another between four and six years old.

Adults who have not gotten the whooping cough vaccine as an adolescent or an adult are urged by the CDC to get one every 10 years. Adults can be carriers of the cough without having any symptoms. The vaccine helps prevent them from passing the illness to those more vulnerable, like children and babies.

Pregnant women are also encouraged to get a dose of the whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy in the third trimester to give extra protection to babies in the womb.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Doctors are also keeping their eye on RSV, which has been on the rise since this summer. It is a common virus with cold-like symptoms that mostly affects children under two years old.

Dr. Michael DiStefano, chief medical officer for Children's Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs, said children normally do well with RSV and it can pass like a common cold. However, parents should know the signs of when to bring their child to a doctor.

"If families notice any sort of noisy breathing and difficulty breathing, they need to be seen by one of their health care providers, whether it's a primary care doctor, an urgent care after hours, or if they're really concerned that they're struggling to breathe the emergency department is a totally appropriate place to be seen," Dr. DiStefano said.

There is no vaccine currently for RSV but the CDC says doctors can provide palivizumab, a medicine, to at-risk babies, including premature infants and young children with certain heart and lung conditions.

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