Hazards of Modern Whooping Cough Tests

Do you remember the false whooping cough epidemic at Dartmouth? The bizarre case resulted from a decision to use PCR, polymerase chain reaction, to test for whooping cough. Dartmouth University did not confirm the PCR test results using an antibody test. Nearly 1,000 healthcare workers were given the preliminary testing and was given unnecessary antibiotics and vaccines for protection. The hospital subsequently reduced the number of beds that were available to limit patient intake in fear of spreading the disease to babies or vulnerable adult patients. Eight months later, the employees received an email from hospital administration informing them that it was a false alarm! Modern whooping cough tests can lead to potential hazards! If you receive a positive result for whooping cough, here are some questions to ask.

Am I up to date with my vaccinations?

Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, is part of your childhood vaccinations (DTaP). Children should receive a total 5 doses at each of the following ages:2, 4, 6, and 15. According to the CDC, (Tdap) a booster shot is given to adolescents between the age of 11-18. If you did not receive one as an adolescent, one dose is recommended for adults. Expectant mothers should receive (Tdap) during each pregnancy at 27 through 36 weeks.

Could my test have been contaminated?

Mad ScientistPCR test is highly susceptible to contamination. Particles of bacteria floating in the air from a common cold can cause a false positive. PCR is still an important tool for diagnosis of pertussis and can provide timely results with improved sensitivity over culture. The test is usually given within the first 3 weeks of cough when bacterial DNA is still present in the nasopharynx. Other tests can be used simultaneously such as a chest xray or an pertussis antibody test to confirm the results.

Fore more information about Pertussis, please visit the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/vaccines.html

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