According to the Centers for Disease Control, a whooping cough outbreak this year in California has already sickened more than 5,270 infants and killed nine, the agency reported. This is highest recorded rate in the state since 1955, said the California Department of Public Health.
While there have been no reported outbreaks within specific colleges, campuses are breeding grounds for contagious conditions, like whooping cough, to spread like wild fire. Thanks to the close living quarters, shared bathrooms and the reduced immune system of many exhausted college students with poor eating and fitness habits, college campuses are often the most hard-hit when it comes to public health illnesses.
So what exactly is whooping cough?
According to the Mayo Clinic, whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. In advanced stages, it’s marked by a severe, hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.”
In the first half of the 20th century, whooping cough was a leading cause of childhood illness and death in the United States. But after the introduction of a vaccine the number of cases gradually declined, reaching a low in the mid-1970s. Since then, however, the incidence of whooping cough has been increasing, primarily among children too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations and teenagers and adults whose immunity has faded, says the Mayo Clinic.
Do your part to stay healthy and to keep those around you healthy as well. Follow these steps to reduce your risk of getting whooping cough:
- The CDC recommends that all adults 18-64 receive the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine 10 years or more after their last tetanus shot. However, in the event of outbreaks or a jump in cases of whooping cough in the community, these adults can be vaccinated even when they got their last tetanus shot less than 10 years ago.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
- Get enough rest, eat fresh and nutrient-rich foods as much as possible (think tons of veggies and fruit).
If you experience the hallmark symptoms of whooping cough such as a prolonged cough that sounds like a “whoop,” a hacking cough as well as extreme fatigue, contact your university health clinic as soon as possible.