Commonly known as whooping cough, pertussis is a significant disease in children and can be very serious and sometimes fatal in infants younger than 6 months. But due to improved sanitation, the widespread availability of fresh, unspoiled, nutritious food, modern rehydration techniques and methods of resuscitation, and new knowledge about alternate therapy, death is much less likely now than it was during or before the early part of the twentieth century. And although pertussis, especially that which is untreated, can cause severe symptoms some of which may be permanent, pertussis vaccine can cause similar symptoms and reactions: high fever, convulsions, continuing seizures, mental retardation, learning disabilities and chronic illness. The vaccine has also caused deaths.
Although the vaccine is formulated for immunity to Bordatella pertussis, it cannot possibly prevent infection by the related species, Bordatella parapertussis and Bordatella holmseii, symptoms of which are indistinguishable from the former. Furthermore, if initially there is only a dry, persistent cough, this may be misinterpreted as an allergic reaction. If confirmation of the so-called “vaccine-preventable disease” is needed, testing must be done.
After an incubation period of 5-21 days, usually 7-14, the first signs of illness range from a minor cold and cough to symptoms similar to those of bronchitis or influenza: runny nose, sneezing, a dry cough, a slight fever and lack of appetite. These symptoms last another 10-15 days. It’s during this period – about three weeks into the infection – that a sample of excretions of the nose/throat must be taken if culture testing is to be done; by the time the illness has progressed to the characteristic “whooping” stage it is too late to sample. (Another test which detects pertussis DNA is also available but can be less accurate). Since the bacterium associated with pertussis is spread by airborne droplets, the disease is contagious whenever there is coughing but the most infectious coughs are the milder ones, before the “whoops” begin. Pertussis is also spread through contact with items the ill person has contacted.
The “whoop” of pertussis disease is the noise made when the child draws in air following coughing spells lasting up to thirty seconds. These prolonged spells serve to bring up mucous from the bronchial tubes. If food has been eaten, it may be expelled along with the mucous. The “whooping” stage may last 20-30 days and it is during this stage of the entire 4-6 weeks of symptoms that the child especially needs a calming adult nearby. Fever during the “whooping” stage is abnormal and requires the attention of a health professional. During the last couple of weeks the “whoops” become less frequent, the child starts to regain weight lost and sleep becomes easier. Depending on treatment provided, a cough, cold or exposure to cigarette smoke may set off a series of whoops up to a year after recovery. Babies less than 3 months find it especially difficult to manage the coughing fits. Depending on type of treatment or lack of treatment altogether, they may develop cyanosis, a bluish colouring of the skin due to lack of oxygen in their blood or complications such as pneumonia.(1)
Pertussis Treatment: For babies, it’s wise to ensure isolation from those showing possible symptoms of pertussis. For those infected, the antibiotics usually prescribed have dubious efficacy and can be harmful. In her article, ‘The Vitamin C Treatment of Whooping Cough’ published in VRANewsletter Spring 2011, Suzanne Humphries MD remarks, “I find it amusing in the wake of pharmaceutical disaster after disaster in all areas of medicine, including my own specialty [kidney disease], that there is even a discussion of a toxicity level for vitamin C – especially for a sick person.” She suggests, “You can politely take the [antibiotic] Rx from the doc, if you go to one, and do with it what you think best…The truth is that it is 1 in 200 babies who have received standard medical treatment, or no treatment whatsoever, who might die. These numbers are used often to frighten parents into vaccinating, but the numbers are generated by counting children who’ve been treated allopathically, not by those of us who have successfully treated alternatively, as those children rarely land up in the stats.” In fact, researcher Hilary Butler has found that, “antibiotics don’t shorten the time of the cough – the studies say antibiotics actually LENGTHEN the time of the cough by around 5 days.”
Dr Humphries explains, “Most of the respiratory tract lining (from the nose to the bronchi) is covered with hair-like (ciliated) epithelial cells. The cilia beat in one direction, moving mucus towards the throat where it is swallowed. Moving down the bronchioles, the cells change in shape but are still ciliated. In health, the bronchial hairs are moving mucus around all the time. It is this continuous movement that keeps the airways free of invasive pathogens. If it didn’t do this, then we would be overcome by the bacteria and viruses we breathe every day. This mucus is part of the innate immune system and is loaded with immune globulins. So you must keep the mucus moving, especially in a sick child. Once the pertussis bacteria have a hold of the hairs, it secretes tracheal cytotoxin, which cuts the hairs off, stops them from beating, and destroys the cells underneath. The mucus then stops moving normally and instead, it pools at the bottom. Then it builds up, breathing becomes harder, and the body signals coughing to try to move the mucus out of the way, for proper breathing to occur. As long as you keep the mucus moving, your baby should not get a secondary infection. Vitamin C and hydration will help to keep the mucus thin.” One reason she doesn’t recommend homeopathic treatment is that, “Even if you get a homeopathic remedy, your body will still probably be vitamin C-deficient…Some practitioners report that after a homeopathic remedy, there is still the possibility of whooping cough recurring.”
Researcher Hilary Butler writes that parents “don’t know that diagnosis is usually made well after the three week period stated in the medical literature. AFTER that time, the medical literature clearly shows that antibiotics made whooping cough worse, and prolong the duration. As a result of the high rate of side effects with Erythromycin, and resultant “poor compliance”, a newer, much more expensive antibiotic, Azithromycin has been given the green light…, which doesn’t work either…No-one is being told that there is a new alert out about azithromycin regarding heart problems. Supposedly, that only relates to people with diabetes or heart problems, but nowhere can I find an explanation as to what it is that Azithromycin ‘does’ in those people, which supposedly it doesn’t also do in everyone else.”
For babies, a little extra effort is needed. Writes Dr Humphries, “With any cough, particularly whooping cough, turn a baby around, with its back to your abdomen. Split your legs, so the baby is supported around the abdomen but its legs are straight down between your thighs. Your hands make a gentle net around the baby’s ribcage and abdomen, and when the baby coughs, you lean forward slightly to angle the baby, allowing the baby to have something for the abdominal muscles to push against as it coughs. You give the baby some pressure to use, but do not press in yourself. They haven’t learned to control their muscles to get an efficient cough yet, so your hands give them a wall to push against, and make it much easier for them. With whooping cough, you will get a clear mucous glob ejected onto your floor. Better out than in. Don’t attempt to catch it or you may drop the baby. With whooping cough, the cough will become more regular, first at night. Maybe every hour, on the hour. This is because it takes about an hour for the mucus to pool at the bottom of the bronchiole tube…An experienced mother who has gotten several babies through whooping cough says…’Everything was organized so that I got the maximum sleep, as sleep deprivation for the mother is the main problem.’”
Dr Humphries lists a few of the functions of vitamin C in relation to pertussis:
“1. The front line function of vitamin C is to bond with, and neutralize, circulating toxin, which is then removed from the body – by the kidneys. With pertussis, the body manages the toxin until it runs out of vitamin C. Then the toxin builds up, the cough intensifies, and there is breakthrough into the blood. In babies with subclinical scurvy…the blood brain barrier weakens significantly – which can result in toxin going into the brain.
2. When the ‘whooping’ body runs out of vitamin C, two things happen. If the mother is observant, she will notice that the child’s gums may go red around the edges – a first sign of scurvy. Then, the cough gets much worse, because the neutrophils [white blood cells] aren’t able to attack the bacteria anymore, because the vitamin C has run out. So the bacteria spreads through the bronchioles, eroding the bronchial hairs…At this point, vitamin C in large enough doses eliminates the toxin, but it won’t stop the need to cough, because the hairs aren’t there, so the child still has to cough up that pooled mucus. The other thing the vitamin C does is thin out the mucus…however, because the mucus moves up quickly, you may get the odd ‘vomit’ session, particularly if the child has just eaten.
3.Vitamin C strengthens collagen intracellular bonds. If no vitamin C is given, the integrity of the body’s collagen intracellular bonds start to weaken, and the child will get pink eyes from the cranial force, and the lungs will start to become congested, the blood-brain barrier becomes permeable…all for the lack of vitamin C.
4. Vitamin C is a great antioxidant. Without vitamin C, the neutrophils and liver won’t be able to deal with the free radicals and toxins being thrown at the body.
5. Vitamin C has a large role in mitochondrial function [production of cell energy]. The patient can get exhausted without vitamin C.”
Tetanus differs from other childhood diseases for which there is a vaccine because it is caused by a bacterium which cannot live and reproduce in the presence of oxygen and therefore is not easily communicable. In fact, Clostridium tetani, the bacterium which releases the toxin that can cause tetanus can be found in our own bodies and yet not cause infection. And even if infection does develop, contrary to what you have likely been told, it usually doesn’t end in death.
The 2005 PENTACEL® monograph told us that the bacterium associated with diphtheria “may be harboured in the nasopharynx, skin or other sites of asymptomatic carriers” and that “Routine immunization against diphtheria in infancy and childhood has been widely practiced in Canada since 1930….Only 1 or 2 cases have been reported annually in Canada in recent years…The case-fatality rate remains 5-10%, with the highest death rates in the very young and elderly.” As for pertussis, measles and scarlet fever, the death rate for diphtheria in North American children was steadily decreasing long before widespread vaccination was practiced. (2)
As for tetanus, the dangers of polio are overrated, firstly because presence of polio virus in the body generally doesn’t result in symptoms and even when it does, the infection is usually non-paralytic, mild and self-limiting to the extent that it is difficult to imagine it being the same disease that has gained the infamous reputation. In fact, because it’s generally such a mild disease, it’s quite possible that disease due to polio virus disappeared in Canada and elsewhere largely because of increased human resistance to the virus over generations of exposure rather than any vaccination programs. As environments in developing parts of the world began to become more sanitized in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, opportunities for exposure to polio viruses diminished and epidemics arose. But even during major epidemics, less than 10% of those exposed had any symptoms and, of those, most were no more severe than the symptoms of a cold. Less than 1% developed paralysis; only half of those remained permanently paralyzed and only 3/8% (three-eighths of one percent) of all those exposed developed severe lifetime paralysis. (3) An interesting aspect of the history of polio is that it’s also quite possible that much of the disease that was thought to have been due solely to viruses was actually due to or encouraged by other factors including: intoxication from agricultural chemicals that have since been banned; lack of iodine (prior to its addition to salt); tonsillectomies which were very much “in fashion” during the years of the polio epidemics in the 1950′s; lack of breastfeeding, it having gone “out of fashion”, and its replacement with DDT-laced cow’s milk formula. (4)
It is interesting to note that, while DDT was phased out in Canada in 1968, it is still widely used in developing countries where polio occurs and these countries are the targets of frequent “eradication” campaigns using the live oral polio vaccine which itself can cause polio.
The second way in which the threat of polio is overrated is that, with the exception of rare cases due to importation from other countries where polio epidemics still occur, Canada has not had polio for decades. Health Canada’s website tells us that the last case of home-grown wild (ie: not from vaccine) paralytic polio in Canada occurred in 1977. There were imported cases reported in 1978 and 1988 and two detections of imported wild virus that didn’t cause illness in 1993 and 1996. Canada, along with the rest of the American Region, was formally certified as polio-free in September 1994. For much more about Polio, please refer to our Polio section.
Haemophilus influenzae type b
When it was first discovered, Haemophilus influenza type b (hereafter called “Hib”) was thought to be the pathogen that caused influenza, hence its confusing name. Hib is actually a bacterium which can lead to invasive diseases, particularly bacterial meningitis, and has been a major form of bacterial meningitis affecting children under 5 yrs. It is spread by respiratory excretions through coughing and sneezing and by direct or indirect contact. The most common early symptoms of Hib disease are high fever, headache and vomiting; infants become irritable, inactive, feed poorly and vomit. Symptoms of Hib meningitis progress to a stiff neck or back; when this happens emergency medical attention is necessary. If not attended to promptly, a swift progression of symptoms can follow: convulsions, confusion, shock, coma and death, all within a few hours of the onset of symptoms. Aside from meningitis which can occur in 50-65% of all cases, complications of Hib disease include: epiglottitis (inflammation of the flap that closes off the windpipe when swallowing), affecting about 15% of children with Hib disease; septic arthritis (fever and joint inflammation), about 12%; cellulitis (skin infection), about 10%; pneumonia, about 15%; osteomyelitis (bone infection), about 3-4%; and bacteremia (blood infection), about 2-3%. When antibiotics became widely available in the 1950′s and ’60′s they were used to stop contagion and greatly reduce deaths. However, since children who recovered from Hib disease often had severe illness including mental retardation and epilepsy, it was deemed necessary to have a Hib vaccine. Several vaccines were developed and some abandoned before the one used in Pentacel was introduced in 1992. (5)
Despite the long list of illnesses possible from Hib, research has shown that it resides harmlessly in the noses, throats and respiratory tracts of up to 90% of all healthy people; it is thought that most children have achieved such colonization and immunity by the time they are 5 yrs old. (6) At the beginning of the twentieth century Hib disease was rarer than it was in the latter half of that century when the number of vaccines given and rates of vaccination soared. In her 1993 book, Viera Scheibner asks “Why have developed countries experienced such an increase of invasive infections in the past 40 years?” She answers herself by explaining “According to Smith and Haynes (1972) a 399% increase in the incidence of invasive Hib infections was recorded from 1942-50 through 1951-59 to 1960-68. Similar trends were presented by Bjune et al (1991). The best demonstrable common factor in this period is a documented push for mass vaccination. This explanation is especially plausible since the number of cases has not increased in babies below three months of age since 1942! ….This clearly implicates DPT injections in the increase of Hib diseases.”
Canada began to report Hib in 1979 but from 1979 to and including 1985 only cases of meningitis were reported. As the graph above shows, during this period there were only 220 to 420 cases of Hib meningitis per year in Canada. According to Health Canada, at this time about two-thirds of all Hib diseases occurred in children younger than 18 mos and over 80% occurred in children younger than 5 yrs. In 1986 two important changes occurred: all types of invasive Hib disease began to be reported and the first Hib vaccine was introduced. However, this vaccine was found to be ineffective in children younger than 18 mos. Considering the 55% increase from 420 cases in 1985 to 650 cases in 1988 and knowing that only 35-50% of all Hib cases do not develop meningitis and, of those, not all develop invasive disease, it seems likely that some of the increase was due to an “unprotected period”, also referred to as a “negative phase” which occurs during the first week following Hib vaccination (see ‘Risks’ in the next section). In 1988 a second vaccine was introduced which, Health Canada now says “is currently not recommended in Canada because it induces antibody responses that are suboptimal”. Two more Hib vaccines introduced in 1991 were licensed for use in infants 2 mos or older, as was the forth version introduced in 1992 (the one used in Pentacel). By 1994, Hib disease had declined to fewer than 100 cases per year, the highest incidence still in infants. (7)
- The Vaccination Dilemma, 2002, edited by Christine Murphy: ‘Common Childhood Illnesses’ by M Gloecker, MD and W Goebel, MD; pgs 56-58.
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations, 2001, by Stephanie Cave, MD, FAAFP; pgs 136-137.
Mosby Medical Encyclopedia, 1996: Signet.
The Informed Parent, June 2000: ‘Whooping Cough: The Disease and the Vaccine’ by Dr Jayne Donegan, MB, DRCOG, DCH, MRCGP (also at Whale).
- Health Progress, 1935–1945, 1948, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co; pg12.
- Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide, 2001, by Aviva Jill Romm; pgs 34, 76-77 and 227.
- The Encyclopedia of Common Diseases, 1962, by J I Rodale, Editor-in-Chief, Rodale Books Inc; Section 53, ‘Polio”.
- What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations; pgs 152-155.
Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide; pgs 81-82.
English: Vaccine Preventable Diseases: Haemophilus influenzae type b, Health Canada
French: Maladies évitables par la vaccination: Haemophilus influenzae de type b, Agence De Sante´ Publique du Canada
- Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide; pgs 81-82.
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations; pg 151.
- Vaccine Preventable Diseases, Health Canada, PPHB, Division of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases: ‘Haemophilus influenzae type b’.