Health & Wellness

Local Doctor's Insight: What You Need to Know About Pertussis


MONTCLAIR, NJ - Kevin Berg, M.D. of Mountainside Medical Center offers insight into the recent Pertussis case confirmed in Montclair. 

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, has made an unwanted appearance at Montclair High School earlier this month, with 3 confirmed cases.

Pertussis is a very contagious respiratory illness that is caused by a bacteria called, Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria plants itself in the upper respiratory system and causes the airways to swell and get narrow. This illness is spread from person to person. According to the CDC, ‘while pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100% effective. When pertussis circulates in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease’. Therefore, you must be aware of what pertussis looks like.

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Pertussis starts off with cold-like symptoms (runny nose, mild fever, occasional cough), then after a week or so the more severe symptoms kick in. Those symptoms are extreme, hard-to- catch-your- breath coughs and possible vomiting and fatigue.

“Someone is the most contagious after the cough begins. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical attention ASAP,” says Kevin Berg, M.D., family practice physician and director of Mountainside Family Practice Group in Verona, N.J.

“Antibiotics are necessary in order to prevent the spreading of this disease. Early treatment is crucial, waiting too long allows the bacteria to possibly permanently damage your body,” explains Dr. Berg.

It is recommended that you get the vaccination for pertussis (DTaP) and every ten years get the booster vaccine (Tdap) to continue protecting yourself from getting the disease. Even though the vaccine may not be 100% effective, catching this illness will not be as bad for someone who has the antibodies from the vaccine as opposed to
someone who does not. Other precautionary measures are to practice good hygiene (cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, cough into your elbow, wash your hands). Do not touch your mouth, eyes, or face without washing your hands. Dr. Berg warns, “If you are feeling ill, do not go to school or work, go to the doctor!”

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