Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We got Whooping Cough

I've been wanting to publish this post for awhile, but I couldn't quite figure out the right tone. Anger? Frustration? Acceptance? I want to go with completely pissed off, but we'll see...

We really need to start playing the lottery, because how many people have experienced as many low percentage situations as we have?

Dylan and I both got a chest cold around mid-October. I had a terrible annoying cough, the kind that is like a tickle or a reflex that you just can't stop, but it was dry. Sometimes it would make me gag and frequently I was unable to talk for a few minutes afterwards. Dylan's was less severe.

Eventually, the cough got a little more phlegmy, but I felt like I was able to get it out and so was Dylan and I was pretty sure it was almost over.

Then it got worse. 

On Sunday morning, I had two episodes where my throat closed up and I couldn't breathe. It was absolutely terrifying. I have never experienced anything like it. So I went to the ER (like I mentioned in a previous post). They gave me antibiotics, an inhaler and a chest X-Ray and diagnosed me with Atypical Pneumonia. (Side note, after awhile, I realized that I could actually breathe through my nose. But it took a lot of concentration to calm down and do so.)

So we took Dylan in to After Hour Peds the same day and he got the same diagnosis, just without an inhaler. But the pediatrician also did a whooping cough swab. She never heard Dylan cough, just talked to me about it. I really didn't think much of it.

And then I got a personal call from our pediatrician on Tuesday night...not a good sign.

Dylan tested positive for Pertussis, Whooping Cough. The implications started flying around in my head. First, I definitely had it too. Second, I'm a teacher, so I needed to inform the entire school. Third, what the fuck? We are both fully vaccinated. I had my last booster right after Dylan was born (current recommendation is 3rd tri...I just didn't have a 3rd tri). Fourth, oh my God, we've been everywhere this month. I have probably infected massive amounts of people. (Dylan's Birthday Party, Pumpkin Patch, Halloween Party, Staff Meetings, District Meetings. Hell, I even shook the Superintendent's hand when she observed my class the day before I found out.)

I know that Southern California is one of the areas with large populations of people who are opting out of vaccines. But I just don't get it. I really don't. Scientists have devoted time and money to create vaccines for diseases that are a problem. And you know who they are the biggest problem for? The people who are too fragile or young to get the vaccines in the first place. Like babies. (I was near, but did not touch, 3 young babies during the time before I was sick.) Herd immunity is a real thing and it works...if enough of the population is vaccinated. I truly think it's irresponsible and reckless not to.

Now anti-vax people will probably say, "well you still got it!" Yeah. Because you didn't vaccinate your kids and it's circulating everywhere in the general population right now.

We are unbelievably lucky about the state of Dylan's lungs. I don't even know how they are so strong, but they are and I was much sicker than he was. But if he had experienced any trouble breathing like I had, I might've had a heart attack.

Anyway. When I informed my school, I found out that I was not the first case and that they had accidentally not informed teachers. That's very frustrating, but it probably wouldn't have changed anything. I just might've gone in sooner and exposed fewer people.

In the end, Pertussis is pretty easily treatable for someone who is generally healthy. One 5 day course of a specific antibiotic will kill it. But the cough can linger for a long time.

Now we're in the midst of a measles outbreak in California. 90% of unvaccinated people get measles when exposed to it. This is scary stuff.

When will people stop thinking they are smarter than scientists, and pediatricians, and epidemiologists?


  1. The anti-vaxxers make me so F*ING mad. I'm so sorry that you and Dylan got Whooping Cough. It sounds like you guys are doing okay. I hope that you get better soon.

  2. Oh dear G_d. I'm so sorry! I absolutely agree with you about the importance of herd immunity and vaccines. Too many people are relying on the herd to prevent illness. It's not safe and the consequences are too dire. And yet, people continue to believe the lies (the data for vaccines causing autism is false and that paper was retracted) out of fear for something we are only beginning to understand.

    Hoping you guys are feeling better soon.

  3. Gahhhh!
    I'm partly anti-vax on some vaccines (hepatitis ones for my kids- don't think they plan to have intercourse or use needles yet!) but some like whooping cough and measles... Vax all the way
    I'm sorry you got sick. It freaks me out that the vaccine actually is worthless.

    Now if they had a vaccine for hand foot and mouth, I'd be signing up for that one yearly!

  4. Oh no fun! I am so sorry! Last year, both our twins got RSV and Croup, within two months. I let daycare know and they said "oh yeah, someone else reported their kid had it the day before" and apparently didn't pass that along. So frustrating!!!! I hope you both get better soon!

  5. That's so awful! Here I thought we were safe if we were vaccinated.

  6. In theory, if you were both vaccinated you shouldn't have gotten whooping cough. Did you discuss the possibility that you both got treated with "hot" (non-working) batches of DPT? Considering how poorly regulated the pharmaceutical companies are it wouldn't surprise me. If you were you might want to get re-vaccinated for protection against diphtheria & tetanus.

    1. Actually since they reconfigured the TDap vaccine, it is less effective against Pertussis. It seems to "wear off." I had a long discussion with the County Health Dept. about it. But the same is not true about MMR. It's also possible that I'm one of the 1% or so of people on whom vaccine are mostly ineffective. But no matter what the reason is, if there were less Pertussis in the population, the odds of D and I getting it would've been much lower.