EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease that can be contracted by babies, infants and adults.
The disease is spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of babies younger than one-year-old who get whooping cough end up hospitalized and a few even die.
Dr. Erik Dickson, Chief Physician Executive at HSHS, says although the flu itself does not turn into whooping cough, flu-like symptoms could actually be the beginning to whooping cough.
Whooping cough may start like a cold or flu with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, a mild cough or a fever. It can become a series of violent and rapid coughing fits that can continue for weeks.
Katie Jelinek, nurse educator at HSHS says that the CDC recommends mothers get the vaccine before birth.
After the shot, the body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to the baby through the placenta. Women should get vaccinated during the third trimester of each pregnancy to ensure each child is protected since antibodies in a woman's system can decrease over time.
The CDC says the vaccination during pregnancy is ideal so the baby will have short-term protection as soon as he or she is born. This early protection is important because babies cannot get vaccinated until 2 months old.
Another effective way a mother can keep her baby healthy is by breastfeeding, where she can pass the antibodies she's made in response to the vaccine to the baby.
The CDC says that if your child develops a cold that includes a lengthy or severe cough, it may be whooping cough. The best way to know is to see your doctor.