Jim and Karen Kitchen with Rose, who overcame an almost deadly case of pertussis, or whooping cough.
He added that immunity from childhood vaccines wears off by adulthood. And, because the pertussis vaccine isn’t started in children until two months of age, very young infants are also at risk.
Residents Jim and Karen Kitchen learned that first-hand with their infant daughter, Rose. Cold symptoms quickly grew worse, leading to hospitalization in Flagstaff on Dec. 20 and a life flight to Phoenix Children’s Hospital two days later. She spent several days in intensive care, and while she was at her sickest – between Dec. 27 and 31, she went into daily respiratory arrest. The Kitchens and other family members kept a 24-hour vigil until Rose improved enough to come home.
Jim Kitchen said the illness, and the seriousness of it, caught them all by surprise.
According to the American Medical Association. pertussis is a respiratory infection caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. People can contract the illness from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. The bacteria works two ways – by interfering with the respiratory tract’s ability to fight germs and by causing inflammation in the breathing passages.
It begins with symptoms that can mimic those of a common cold – runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and dry cough. In a couple of weeks, the cough deepens and can come in spells that last more than a minute. It is from this that the disease gets its name: in between coughing fits, patients gasp for breath, creating the charactaristic “whooping” sound. It is usually treated with antibiotics, but full recovery can be slow.
According to Nienstadt, the illness can be indentifed through a test by a doctor.
Preventative measures includ avoiding people who are coughing and good hand-washing habits. Nienstadt also recommends vaccination.
“We are trying to get more people vaccinated so things like whooping cough don’t spread,” he said.
Jim Kitchen agrees.
“It’s important to emphasize to parents with babies that aren’t vaccinated, there is a definite risk,” he said.
The county sponsors a vaccination clinic at the Canyon on alternating months with the next planned in March. Vaccines are also available directly from the county office. To make an appointment, call 877-522.7800.