Helping To Make the World Safer and Whooping Cough; A Case Study
The Skepchicks and the Women Thinking Free Foundation are hosting a FREE TDaP Vaccine Clinic at The Amazing Meeting in Vegas!
When and Where: The clinic will be Saturday July 16 in the Balboa room at the South Point Casino and Hotel from 9am – 3:30pm
WHY: Whooping cough, or pertussis is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis (or B. pertussis). Whooping cough, though most often deadly in infants is actually commonly transferred by adults. Here is another fact you may not be aware of; Adults need a booster shot approximately every 5 to 7 years. When was your last booster? Mine was last September when the Skepchicks and the Hug Me I’m Vacinated group organized a free vaccine clinic at Dragon Con and we are offering it again, this time at TAM!
What would cost approximately $80 (here in Los Angeles) will be FREE for whoever wants it at the The Amazing Meeting. And why do you want the booster? Well, so you can save lives of course! See: herd immunity. And so you don’t find yourself quite literally coughing your eyes out, like our friend Mickey from Geek Girls Rules did.
I recently spoke with Mickey when she interviewed me on her Geek Girls Rule Podcast and she told me she had contracted Whooping Cough. I asked her if she would tell her story to us so we could get a feel for what can happen if you don’t get your booster shot. And she did! Here is her story:
In January of 2008, after a long recovery from a series of surgeries over the summer of 2007, I came down with Whooping Cough. See, like most adults who have never traveled outside of the US, I hadn’t had an MMR or DPT booster shot since my early teens. In fact, not a one of my doctors had ever mentioned the need for adult booster shots of anything but Tetanus. And the last Tetanus booster I’d gotten was before they started bundling it with Diptheria and Pertussis, aka Whooping Cough.
So, in January I started to cough. As an asthmatic, I wasn’t real worried. I tend to catch respiratory illnesses like you wouldn’t believe. But it kept getting worse, keeping me and my husband up all night. I finally went to the doctor. My doctor knew it wasn’t bronchitis or pneumonia, but she didn’t know exactly what it was at first. She tried me on a course of steroids, which I couldn’t finish because I didn’t sleep for three days, and most of another day after I quit taking them. By this point, I was coughing until I threw up, pissed myself and passed out on a regular basis. After the first three days I had burst every blood vessel in my eyes, see the attached picture. I would cough, and then there’d be a quick stabbing pain in one of my eyes, a quick burst of warmth, and then they’d be redder than before.
So I went in again, and finally, she told me it was Whooping Cough (Pertussis), something she’d never seen personally before. The ideal treatment for it is a combination of steroids and penicillin, the first I have bad reactions to, the second, I am deathly allergic to. So they put me on the strongest antibiotic I can take and decided against trying the steroids again.
I know I gave it to at least one friend, before we realized that it wasn’t just bronchitis, for which I have apologized repeatedly. Another friend, with whom I had no contact in that period, caught it from another vector. She posted to Livejournal about coughing so hard she’d passed out in the bathroom and nearly gave herself a concussion. I told her to go to the doctor, as I was 97% sure she had Whooping Cough. She called me from her doctor’s office, because she did and he didn’t know how to treat it. He wanted to know what my doctor had prescribed.
In my case, the Whooping Cough just made me miserable for a long while. I lost weight because I couldn’t eat. Everything hurt, and I would cough until I threw up every time I did manage to eat something. Because of the steroids and antibiotics, I came down with a raging case of Thrush, as well. I survived mostly on fruit juices and yogurt smoothies. I did not come even remotely close to death, but there were times, lying on my bathroom floor after being driven to my knees by a coughing fit when I wished I could have died just so it would finally be over.
The cough hung on for months, and my eyes stayed red for about another three weeks to a month. I would regularly have to bolt to the bathroom when I felt a coughing fit coming on, and wore pads constantly in case of cough ambushes some where I couldn’t get to a restroom. It was probably May or June before I could walk more than a block without collapsing in a coughing fit.
Diseases like Whooping Cough had been all but wiped out in the US until the recent anti-vaccination movement. The reason most doctors didn’t recommend adult boosters for the most part, was because of herd immunity. This herd immunity protected adults, the elderly and infants too young to be vaccinated. Now Measles, Mumps and Whooping Cough are experiencing a renaissance in developed nations.
Children are magnificent disease vectors. They have not yet internalized all the taboos that adults have about personal cleanliness. They wipe their noses and grab your hand, they blow spit bubbles, they grab things with spitty or snotty fingers. This isn’t me saying that children are awful. Children are children, they are what they are.
As a relatively healthy adult (asthma aside), Pertussis was an awful ordeal that dragged out for months, but wasn’t fatal, however much I wished it were at the time. For the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and infants, it can be a death sentence.
Get your booster shots people! And we will see you in Las Vegas!
*Special thanks to Mickey for sharing her story and her photo!