Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that affects between 600,000 and 1 million people in the United States every year. The state of California is experiencing the worst epidemic of whooping cough in 50 years. Pertussis is highly contagious, characterized by uncontrollable deep coughing, causing a person to gasp for breath. Anyone can catch whooping cough, but it is particularly dangerous to infants and small children because they can cough so hard they cannot catch their breath, causing a "whooping" sound.
Whooping Cough Symptoms
• Runny nose
• Nasal congestion
• Red, watery eyes
• Mild fever
• Dry cough
If one family member has whooping cough, there is a 90 percent chance each person in the house will catch it. "It's respiratory, it's airborne, so you can breathe that in," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. "If it lands on a surface, it can get on your hands, and you can put it in your eyes or nose."
While a vaccination is available for the disease, only 2.1 percent of adults have been vaccinated. "If you've had a tetanus shot recently, oftentimes the pertussis vaccine is part of it," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. "Ask your doctor to make sure you're up to date."
Pediatrician Dr. Sonya Sethi Gohill, from Brentwood Pediatrics, joins The Doctors with 18-month-old Lyon and his mother, Nicole, who is concerned that Lyon may have pertussis. Dr. Gohill explains how to prevent pertussis in infants.
"Education is really the key here," she says. "It's really important that people get vaccinated. Because these infants are too young to be vaccinated, or are not fully vaccinated, we have what we call this cocoon effect. We vaccinate everyone around the infant so that the baby is protected and not exposed to the disease."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.4 million Americans get salmonella poisoning every year. The bacteria can cause a number of health problems, including:
• Abdominal pain
• Blood in stool
• Muscle pains
The recent egg salmonella scare has been traced to two Iowa farms, resulting in a recall of nearly half a billion eggs. "Before you eat an egg, make sure you know where it came from," plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon says. "If you're cooking your eggs, if there's any question, make sure you cook them well - hard boiled, if you're boiling the eggs, and none of the over-easy [preparations]."
"The yolk needs to be solid, then it's been cooked enough," Dr. Sears adds.
Get a complete list of egg recall products.
A New Super Bug?
While methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, infection rates are down in some hospitals, a new strain of the bug Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, which lives in the colon, has surfaced in 39 states and has many people worried.
The new, potentially fatal C. diff strain can produce about 20 times the amount of toxins than the original strain. It is found in soil, air, water and human and animal feces, and can be spread to food, surfaces and other objects handled by people who haven't washed their hands. C. diff is extremely contagious and can live on surfaces for months, and does not respond to disinfectants or hand sanitizers. While healthy people can get sick from C. diff, the elderly, patients who have recently been hospitalized and those with underlying medical problems such as diabetes, gastrointestinal issues or inflammatory bowel disease, are at higher risk.
C. diff Symptoms
• Watery diarrhea, three or more times per day
• Abdominal cramping
• Blood or pus in stool
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
"C. diff is oftentimes an infection you get after being on broad-spectrum antibiotics," Dr. Travis says. "If you come into the E.R. and have fever, severe diarrhea and abdominal pain, one of the first things I'll ask you is, 'Have you been on antibiotics recently?' If you have, my suspicion for C. diff goes up."
When you take antibiotics to treat an infection, the drug can destroy normal, healthy bacteria. Without enough of the healthy bacteria, C. diff can quickly grow.
Treating the bug is difficult, but the first step is to stop taking the antibiotic that triggered the infection. If needed, there are antibiotics available that can treat it. The best way to prevent getting the bug is to wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water and avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics.