A baby gave ME whooping cough–Marguerite’s Tale

It’s January 2006 and Marguerite is working as the lead teacher in the infant room at a daycare. In the season of viral colds, these small children are in and out of the classroom with stuffy noses and watery eyes almost daily. But she notices that one child has been particularly sick for several days and is not looking well. She sends the child home with a fever and reminds the parents of the daycare policy: the child must be fever free for 24 hours before returning to class.

Thinking nothing of it, she returns to work. Two days later the child returns, however gets sent home the following day, again, with a fever. This time the parents take the child to the doctor where they send him to the hospital–a hospitalization that lasts three days.

At around the time the child is hospitalized Marguerite starts to feel like she’s coming down with similar symptoms. The first few days she feels like she has a bad cold and then she gets woken in the night by a terrible coughing attack. Now her throat full of mucous and she’s having difficulty breathing.

The coughing continues and she has coughing attacks so bad she feels like she’s suffocating. Not being able to get enough air into her body, she often feels light headed and dizzy. The coughing attacks leave her red-faced, watery-eyed, and exhausted.

She’s getting worse. At times her coughing attacks make her throw up or pass out, leaving her fearful each time she starts to cough.

Overall, she’s exhausted. She is unable to sleep in her bed and instead has to sleep in a reclining chair supported by pillows. Marguerite can barely breathe through all the mucous in her lungs.

She sticks it out for a week but ends up at the doctor’s office feeling terribly sick. There, they swab her nose and confirm she has pertussis (whooping cough).

Marguerite misses two weeks of work because of the whooping cough due to being overwhelmingly sick. Also because she’s highly contagious and whooping cough can be fatal to the infants she cares for.

She had gotten the Tdap vaccine (containing the acellular pertussis vaccine) sometime in the few weeks before she got sick but not in time for her to be covered from getting ill. She vaccine takes about 14-21 days before ample antibodies are made to protect against disease, leaving her susceptible for that amount of time.

The vaccine wasn’t required for her to work at the daycare but her doctor felt it necessary due to the fact that she also has asthma. Not to mention this vaccine plays a huge part in the prevention of spreading whooping cough to the children she takes care of.

After the pertussis outbreak, the facility now requires the Tdap vaccine for all employees.

Marguerite says , “In the larger picture, I feel that it should be (required) for all daycare workers not only to protect themselves but the children we watched.”

How does she feel about the Tdap vaccine after having gone through being ill with pertussis?
“I’m pregnant with my first and I’ve already looked into when my husband, stepson, and I all should get our whooping cough vaccines. I’m also encouraging my family that can to get it as well, not only of the baby but my mother and sister both have autoimmune diseases so when they get sick it’s 20 times worse,” she says.
Protecting infants is the number one reason to get the Tdap vaccine. If you’re pregnant you should be given Tdap after 27 weeks to protect your infant in his first two months of life before he is able to get the DTaP vaccine at his two month check-up. Please learn more about protecting your unborn child from pertussis HERE.




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