What It's Like To Have Whooping Cough At 31 In 2013

When we think of whooping cough we think of wet nurses and midwives and
disease-causing wells.

But the truth is this persistent bacterial infection is making a comeback, and infecting not just children (who can die from it), but also adults.

At 31, in the year 2013, Julia Ioffe has whooping cough. She wrote about her experiences in the New Republic in a post titled “I’ve Got Whooping Cough. Thanks A Lot, Jenny McCarthy.”

Here’s some of what she has faced:

  • Ioffe woke up two-and-a-half months ago with a slight fever and a tightness in her chest.
  • Since that morning, she’s been coughing for 72 days (and nights) straight.
  • The cough isn’t polite and quiet, it’s intense. When whooping, Ioffe was often “doubled over, body clenched, sucking violently for air, my face reddening and my eyes watering .” Sometimes vomiting or involuntarily peeing.
  • The cough and infection is exhausting. She sleeps for 16 hours a night on weekends.
  • But, the cough has also given her killer abs.
  • She infected her mother with the bacteria (luckily the infection wasn’t severe).

Whooping cough can be prevented by vaccination.

The increased incidence of this once-almost-abolished disease is most likely due to a loss of herd immunity — when a large percentage of a population is immunized against something, it protects the rest of the population and essentially stops the spread of the illness.

But since the anti-vaxxer movement has taken off, based off completely false allegations and fuelled by unscientific statements from fear-mongering meager celebrities, vaccination has dipped below these herd-immunity levels in some areas of the world.

It doesn’t seem like Ioffe’s infection can be traced back to any specific child or parent, but she places the blame on anti-vaxxers anyway:

You took an ethical stand against big pharma and the autism your baby was not going to get anyway, and, by doing so, killed some babies and gave me, an otherwise healthy 31-year-old woman, the whooping cough in the year 2013. I understand your wanting to raise your own children as you see fit, science be damned, but you’re selfishly jeopardizing more than your own children…. what gives you denialists the right to put my health at risk — to cause me to catch a debilitating, humiliating, and frightening cough that, two months after I finished my last course of antibiotics (how’s that for supporting big pharma?), still makes me convulse several times a day like some kind of tragic nineteenth-century heroine?

Read Ioffe’s argument for vaccination at the New Republic »

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