…or why I’ll miss my deadline for the book illustrations.
We all grew up knowing the dangers of whooping cough. People broke their ribs coughing so hard, infants turned blue and died from it, small children often didn’t survive and the same was true with the elderly and frail among us.
Once there was a reliable vaccine available, everyone was inoculated. After a decade or two it was completely eradicated from the United States, as were Polio, measles, mumps and chicken pox. Our only job now is to love and protect the children.
Then this winter pertussis, which is the actual name that scientists and doctors use for this disease, broke out in Washington USA. A beautiful green state that sits on the west coast by the Pacific Ocean and boarders British Columbia, Canada on the north. Suddenly hundreds of children were desperately ill and hospitalized, older children exhausted from the coughing and adults spending nights sitting up coughing because the coughing gets even worse when they lay down.
Like a virus, this bacteria can live on hard surfaces for several hours. Because it is a bacteria there are three antibiotics that can be given within the first five days that will help the sick with it recover quickly. But it is a sneaky illness. Tracing it’s roots is very difficult. It has a ten-day incubation period from the time of exposure. And then it comes on like a minor cold.
On the second day I was in Colorado Springs I had a couple of small issues. A little shortness of breath surprised me, because in previous visits the high altitude did not bother me. A slight sore throat and a little dry hackie cough were chalked up to both the high altitude and the extreme dry air. Any other tiredness was of course due to being on the go so much and too busy with family, work, photos, blogs and squeezing in time to cook, clean and work on my book illustrations.
By about day seven, I became suspicious that even though this seemed like a garden variety cold, something else was making life miserable. Most coughs I can be stifled and as we learned as kids when we wanted to stay home one more day, could be brought on with little effort. This cough was racking my body in sieges of all muscles from hips to armpits involuntarily squeezing my mid section with force strong enough to cause the intense coughing that causes light-headedness and dizziness. The contractions are not controllable and come with enough force to also squeeze out vomit. At the same time, you are gasping for air when the next one strikes, the next gasp for air brings with it a dreadful, un-humanly sound that scared the heck out of me. I wondered where that came from. My next cough and I realized it came from me. It was the third day of a three-day holiday.
I called the doctor the following morning. An internet search told me that if it is pertussis I would be contagious until the illness was gone. The anti-biotic should still be taken even though it might be too late to help me, after five days I would no longer be a carrier. I started antibiotics yesterday. Four more days.
How can something that no longer exists make a return? Many statistics would point to the fact that young parents do not realize the dangers of many of the horrible children’s disease that many of us lost family and friends to. They have never seen it, their children are super-human, healthy and besides the parents don’t want their children exposed to some possible toxins in the vaccine. Don’t forget to factor in parents will fight off dragons to keep their infant from even a tiny discomfort and a few fussy days following the shot.
My last vaccination was ten years ago. The particular dose I was given did not contain the pertussis vaccine, though everyone had it assumed it had. My next vaccination is scheduled for as soon as I am well. At that point I will probably already be immune.
I am posting this, not to gain sympathy, although a few “poor baby,”s would be acceptable. I am posting this as a reminder to every one of every age, check on your immunizations. Make sure you are covered. A few days of possible little fever and a sore arm are a small price to pay not just to stay healthy but to not be an unwilling accomplice to a nasty little bacterium.
Hugs (virtual only of course),