Everything You Should Know About Pertussis And Haven’t Been Told

You’ve probably been seeing campaigns about the adult pertussis shot. (“If your baby could talk, she would tell you to get the pertussis shot!”) Pertussis is also one of the diseases that Dr. Sears feels it is most important to vaccinate children for since pertussis is very common and can kill young babies. You may be thinking that the greatest risk for your newborn contracting pertussis lies in individuals who are not vaccinated for the disease.

You would be wrong. The reality is that even if you have been vaccinated for pertussis, there is a very strong possibility that you will still catch pertussis and pass it on to others.

Many parents have been lulled into a false sense of security because they don’t see children coughing and whooping. Before you get too smug and lecture about how you have removed yourself and your children from the epidemiological chain consider that it is a medically documented fact that individuals who have been vaccinated for pertussis and contract the disease often don’t display any symptoms. Yep, you can have pertussis and not even know it.

But what about everything you have been hearing about how pertussis vaccination has saved lives and is responsible for public health safety?

A 2013 study showed that the acellular pertussis vaccine that is currently used is actually far less effective than the older whole cell pertussis vaccine that was used until the 1990’s.  On the other hand, the medical community acknowledges that the whole cell vaccine was discontinued and is not likely to be brought back because of it carries an increased risk of mild and severe side effects.

Take a look at the following cases:

Yes, you can vaccinate for pertussis, but that doesn’t mean that it will stop the spread of it. Considering the abysmal failure rate of the pertussis vaccine, we should probably begin to call into question assertions that it was responsible for dramatic decreases in pertussis death rates. Take a look at Tavia Gordon’s Vital Statistics report chart from 1953. The pertussis death rate actually reached an all time high of approximately 17 per 100,000 in 1918- four years after the introduction of the pertussis vaccine in 1914. The pertussis death rate continued to decline throughout the first half of the twentieth century at roughly the same rate as other diseases like scarlet fever (which we don’t vaccinate for) and measles (vaccine introduced in the 1960’s).

Much has been said about the safety of vaccine excipients. Before you start getting up on a soapbox about how vaccine excipients are safe, ask yourself how you feel about injecting your child wight he following:

  • formaldehyde ( a known carcinogen and mutagen), which is in all pertussis shots, both DTaP and Tdap.
  • gluteraldehyde, closely related to formaldehyde, known to cause eczema and asthma (Was this in the shots they were giving thirty years ago? I wonder if it could be responsible for the horrible eczema that plagued me as a baby and into elementary school. Nothing conclusive, but something I wonder.)
  • 2-phenoxyethanol (Daptacel, Pentacel and Adacel), a preservative known to depress the central nervous system and cause vomiting and diarrhea. In fact, in 2008 the FDA warned mothers not to use a brand of nipple cream that had phenoxyethanol in it because of the danger to babies.
  • Polysorbate 80 (Infanrix, Pediarix, Kinrix, Boostrix), which is an insecticide actually classified as a List C pesticide under the 1988 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
  • Those with objections to the use of animals or abortion should take note that all pertussis vaccines contain animal cell cultures (bovine is especially favored) and Pentacel contains cell cultures from an aborted fetus designated MRC-5.

Are you getting concerned?

While the pertussis vaccine may not be the safest or most effective way of combatting whooping cough, there are alternatives.

High doses of Vitamin C may have a profound effect on pertussis. Before the advent of antibiotics, some doctors began experimenting with high doses of Vitamin C in treating pertussis and other bacterial infections.

A number of studies from the first half of the twentieth century showed excellent results in the treatment of pertussis with high doses of vitamin C. Otani was the first to experiment with high dose Vitamin C therapy for pertussis and his results were soon replicated by other doctors. His favored methods was injections or intravenous Vitamin C.

The 1937 Ormerod and Unkauf study detailed 10 cases of pertussis in 9 children and one adult that all responded very well to high dose oral Vitamin C therapy. Usually pertussis takes six weeks (sometimes more) for full recovery, but the Ormerod cases averaged around two weeks. The paroxysmal coughing spasms were also reduced to days instead of weeks.

In 1938, Ormerod conducted another study of high dose Vitamin C therapy with further successful results. The protocol he developed involved giving 350 mg on the first day of therapy, 250 mg the second and third days, 200 mg on the fourth and fifth days, 150 on the sixth and seventh days and 100 mg every day thereafter until all symptoms were gone for two days. (Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins, Thomas E. Levy, M.D., 2009, pg. 117) Sesa in 1940 reported excellent results in giving infants with pertussis injections of 100 mg to 500 mg of Vitamin C. Meier in 1945 reported a marked reduction in coughing fits in infants that he treated with both oral and injected Vitamin C. (Levy, pg. 118)

These early researchers noted that pertussis cases often presented with scurvy (a disease associated with Vitamin C deficiency), regardless of diet. This led them to conclude that pertussis actually depleted the body’s Vitamin C stores, so high doses are needed to help the body fight off the infection.

Dr. Thomas Levy states that Vitamin C therapy should always be used along with treating pertussis or any other infectious disease and that a regular high intake of Vitamin C should also prevent pertussis as well  (Levy, pg. 118).

On the Internet there is a lot of talk about treating pertussis with an extremely high dose regime from Dr. Frederick Klenner, but Klenner never actually treated pertussis with his protocol (Levy, pg. 118). (However, Klenner did report succesfully treating other infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis.)

With the advent of antibiotics, Vitamin C protocols fell by the wayside, so if your child does contract pertussis, it’s unlikely she will receive high dose Vitamin C at the hospital. It might be useful to consult a qualified naturopath in conjunction with any conventional therapies for pertussis.

You could also consult a homeopath. The homeopathic remedy drosera has been used to successfully treat pertussis for over 100 years.

Depending on symptoms, other remedies such as ipecacaunha or pulsatilla can be used. With pertussis, it can be tricky to match the right homeopathic because the symptoms (i.e. type of cough, mucus, etc.) change constantly, but homeopathy can be very helpful in treating this disease.

Because vaccinated individuals and  babies under 6 months often don’t display the “classic” whooping cough symptoms, pertussis can creep up on the unwary and unprepared. That’s why it is important to know the symptoms.

Unvaccinated children and adults will  first have cold–like symptoms such as a runny nose, low-grade fever and mild coughing for one to two weeks. After that there will be violent coughing fits that often end with a “whoop” sound. Often the paroxysms will cause exhaustion or vomiting in between fits. This lasts for around 1–6 weeks, sometimes longer.

Once the paroxysmal state is over, there is a 2–3 week convalescent stage when the coughing gradually tapers off, but the individual is still very susceptible to respiratory infections. With high dose Vitamin C therapy,  the paroxysmal state may last only a few days and be far less severe, with a shorter convalescent stage as well.

Infants under 6 months often will not have any coughing. One of the keys to spotting pertussis in young babies is apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep). If you notice your baby frequently stops breathing during sleep, it could be pertussis.

Update: A study published in the April 2014 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases showed that the  TDaP vaccine is only 47% effective amongst adolescents ages 13-16. From Medscape’s report on it: “When asked whether they would recommend any changes to public policy on the basis of this data, Dr. Liko (author of the study) said no, but that, “public health officials should continue to reassure that vaccination as recommended by [the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] is associated with lower risk of pertussis among children and adolescents.” 

So let’s get this straight. You know that pertussis vaccination is so ineffective it couldn’t possibly create herd immunity. You know that it won’t protect even half of the teens and adults who get it. But nothing needs to change and public health officials should make sure that people continue to use the said ineffective product. This kind of response will certainly line the pockets of manufacturer’s but will not stop the spread of pertussis.

Update February 2016: Antibiotics can kill of bordetella pertussis, the bacteria that causes pertussis, but it can’t actually alter the course of the progression of the disease. Secondary conditions like uncontrollable vomiting, hypoxia, and dehydration can result from the severity of the coughing, and the antibiotics can’t actually treat these symptoms- it just kills off the b. pertussis bacteria. This is why pertussis remains difficult to treat even with antibiotics. Here’s a link for a study:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15674946

Scientists have recently discovered antibiotic resistant pertussis bacteria strains. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/18/6/12-0091_article




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