Activism

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!

Amy Roth

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab and cohost of Makers' Hustle Podcast Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

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9 Comments

  1. July 12, 2011 at 10:45 am —

    I had the roughly the same experience in 2005 with my doctors. Three trips in with a cough that wouldn’t go away until one finally thought of whooping cough. By then I had been on a few airline flights, exposed my special needs teacher girlfriend, and my 90+ grandfather. The health department called me to try to see who I had been around but decided it was too late to limit any exposure. I also had already gone through the antibiotics by then. For months I went to sleep with a cough drop in my mouth. The whooping part of the cough could be very scary. My throat is still raw, I can’t talk for long periods without my voice starting to crack. Any little irritation will make me cough, I think I can smell cigarette smoke on the freeway! My doctor and I were planning to give me a TDAP next week, but I’ll be at TAM9 and get it there! Thanks!

  2. July 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm —

    I had whooping cough as a child. I was vaccinated for it twice due to poor record keeping at the now-defunct City of Faith hospital in Tulsa, OK. This was the hospital founded by Oral Roberts. It closed down by the time my parents realized what had happened to me. Thank you evangelicals.

    Fortunately I was only 2, and have no memory of all this.

  3. July 13, 2011 at 1:07 am —

    I got whooping cough while I was in veterianry school in 2007. I stay up to date on my tetanus vaccines because animal bites can transmit tetanus and I thought whooping cough was part of the tetanus shot. I also coughed until I vomited (eyes intact, though). A classmate of mine also contracted it and got a stress fracture on her rib from the coughing!

  4. July 13, 2011 at 11:58 am —

    Does one have to be attending TAM to get vaccinated? I live in Vegas but I couldn’t afford to attend this year.

  5. July 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm —

    I wouldn’t wish whooping cough on my worst enemy.
    I’m glad that my parents kept me up to date with all of my vaccinations when I was a child. Unfortunately, I was told that I had such a severe reaction to the first round of the whooping cough vaccine that I wasn’t given the booster. Just before I turned 14 I came down with a cough that kept me up all night. My doctor thought it was a case of bronchitis aggravating my asthma, gave me something to help calm the symptoms, and sent me on my merry way. A week later I was worse and still my doctor had no idea what was wrong. I too was coughing till I would vomit, popped blood vessels in my eyes, and would almost pass out walking across the room.
    More than a month went by with no end in sight. Every doctor in town (I came from a very small town) had their own idea as to what was wrong with me. I was on different antibiotics, a nebulizer treatment, a couple of different steroids, they even gave me something to relax/numb the muscles of my throat. At their wits end, I was sent to a specialist. The specialist said he had heard me cough on my way into the exam room and thought it was whooping cough, but wanted to run some tests to be sure. He heard me cough and knew?!? Over a month of uncertainty and he knew just by hearing me cough?!? He was correct, but said there was no real treatment other than letting the illness run its course. I missed 6 weeks of school and didn’t see any of my friends because no one knew if the “mystery illness” was contagious.
    I makes me cringe when I see outbreaks in populations that could easily have been vaccinated. No one should have to go through that experience.

  6. July 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm —

    As a Public Health nurse who works as an Epi specialist… please do do do get your pertussis booster. You should be able to contact your local health department and get it free or at reasonable cost.

    Pertussis is what I call a “red flag” disease (along with measles, shigella and hepatitis A) due to its hyper-communicability. It is treatable with Azithromycin if you catch it early in its course, but after that you are pretty much stuck with the cough. It’s called the “100 days’ cough” in some parts of the world. The good news is that you are generally not contagious after about the first 2-3 weeks of cough.

  7. July 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm —

    You might find this interesting: Whooping Cough: Religion’s Deadly Denial. I had the misfortune to contract whooping cough too.

    • July 21, 2011 at 3:09 am —

      Anti-vax folks aren’t just from religious reasons. They also come from folks who think a NWO global elite wants to exterminate 90% of the world population. The vaccines supposedly contain some slow viruses that will cause cancer, plus dangerous additives that cause autism. Look up “Alex Jones” at Infowars. They think the last swine flu was created on purpose by these global elites. The CDC, FDA, Big Pharma and WHO are part of the conspiracy.

  8. July 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm —

    I won’t be at TAM, but I got the TDaP booster earlier this year because Skepchick reminded me.

    So thanks.

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