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LCA Health Department says whooping cough back in District

Young babies are at greatest risk, writer says, but area has experienced outbreaks in schools and colleges

By Amy C. Tomlinson, MPH
News from the Lake Cumberland Area Health Department

Whooping cough, or Pertussis, is back! Not just in distant communities, (California had over 9000 cases in 2010) but also here in the Lake Cumberland area where we have experienced outbreaks in schools and colleges.


Whooping cough is a bacterial disease, which initially produces cold-like symptoms, fever is absent or minimal, followed by a cough, which in adults can last for 100 days. Attacks of coughing can be so severe that patients produce a "whoop" and may vomit or even break ribs. Unfortunately the immunity from DTaP vaccine, which adolescents and adults received as children, has waned and these age groups are now susceptible. A one time dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diptheria, pertussis), is available to boost the immunity of adolescents and adults.

Pertussis is a contagious disease and close contacts, those who share homes, are at risk. Contagiousness begins at onset of disease and lasts for three weeks. Antibiotic treatment started early (within the first week) can lower the contagious period, however starting more than three weeks after onset may not alter the natural history of the illness. Close contacts of whooping cough cases should receive vaccination and antibiotic prophylaxis (five days of Zithromycin) as soon as possible, and no later than 21 days after onset of cough of the original case. Communities that are experiencing pertussis outbreaks should consider this vaccination for all susceptible individuals.

Young babies are at greatest risk, as they have not yet been immunized against Pertussis. Pertussis is most severe in babies younger than six months; they may stop breathing as well as experience complications, which can include pneumonia and seizures. Hospitalization is usually required for infants with whooping cough. Protect them and yourself- get immunized today.

The best test to diagnose a case of Pertussis is the nucleic acid (PCR) test from a nasopharyngeal swab. Unfortunately the antibody blood test may be difficult to interpret and does not confirm the diagnosis.

Whooping cough is a reportable disease. Help us help you by reporting all cases to the Lake Cumberland District Health Department in order to curb outbreak.
Amy C. Tomlinson, MPH
Public Health Services Coordinator
Lake Cumberland District Health Department
500 Bourne Avenue
Somerset, KY 42501

606-678-4761 ext 1148


This story was posted on 2012-01-21 02:48:50
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