Whooping cough, a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, is known to last for between four to six weeks before subsiding. Also called pertussis, the infectious disease has started spreading like an epidemic across parts of California.

As the name implies, the disease brings forth severe bouts of coughing that results in the patient finding it difficult to eat and breathe. Prevalent in children, the disease impacts adults as well. The cough could prove fatal at times amongst children who could choke over it.

Preventive vaccination is available to guard against the disease. We provide five simple precautions to prevent whooping cough:

1) Vaccination: The vaccine called DTaP (for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis). It is given to children in five doses. The first four shots are given during a baby’s first 18 months, at two, four and six years. Babies generally get about 80% to 85% immunity to pertussis after the third dose.

2) Booster shot: TDap vaccines are given as booster shots to build immunity against whooping cough. It is a combined tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster vaccination. The vaccine is given in a single shot after age 11 and through age 64. Tdap provides 90% cover against all the three diseases pertussis tetanus and diphtheria.

3) Adults may require a Td booster shot every 10 years for continued protection against tetanus and diphtheria after a Tdap booster shot.

4) Antibiotics: Whooping cough is usually treated with antibiotics such as erythromycin, clarithromycin, doxycycline, azithromycin, and trimethoprim/sulfa-methoxazole.

5) Wash your hands: The whooping cough causing bacteria is extremely contagious. Hand hygiene is a universally recommended measure against any contagious diseases. So wash your hands and if possible wash using alcohol-based rubs after touching nasal secretions.

6) Cover nose and mouth: Most people do not care about covering their noses and mouths while sneezing and coughing. Covering the mouth really goes a long way preventing the spread of whooping cough.