Northern Ky. health officials fight outbreak of whooping cough

Whooping cough is spreading in Northern Kentucky. The disease, formally known as pertussis, is mostly “being seen in school-aged youth, but whooping cough is concerning because of the risk of severe illness in infants under age 1,” the Northern Kentucky Health Department reports.

The area has seen 31 cases of whooping cough since the start of November, “with 13 cases occurring in the last week of November alone,” the department said in a news release. “Most of these cases have been in school age youth age 10 and over, although several cases have been reported in parents of school-aged children as well. Cases have been reported in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties.

In comparison, the region had seven cases of whooping cough in all of November and December of 2014.”

Dr. Lynne M. Saddler, director of the health agency, said, “This disease is one that spreads very easily through coughing and sneezing, so our concern is that families and friends will gather over the holidays and potentially infect one another. Plus, the early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to the common cold and whooping cough is not often suspected or diagnosed until more severe symptoms appear.”

The outbreak suggested that some children may not have had the required vaccination, which the department said is “the best way to prevent the spread of whooping cough. Parents of young children should make sure that their child has been vaccinated with DTaP, which includes vaccine for tetanus and diphtheria as well. The vaccine is usually given in five doses, administered at two months, four months, six months, 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years of age. A booster dose of Tdap is recommended for preteens at ages 11or 12.

Vaccine protection fades over time; therefore adults and parents of teens age 10 years of age or older should ensure that Tdap vaccinations are up to date.”

Saddler said, “Vaccination with a Tdap is especially critical for school teachers, pregnant women, parents, grandparents and caregivers for infants,” said Saddler. “Although vaccination protects most people against whooping cough, no vaccination is 100 percent effective. Some people who are fully vaccinated may still become infected and have a mild case of the illness. In those instances, it is still important for people who are ill to stay home and avoid contact with others.”

Early symptoms of whooping cough include runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough. “After a week or two, a persistent cough develops which occurs in explosive bursts, sometimes ending with a high-pitched whoop and vomiting,” the release said. “Individuals who have a cough lasting more than two weeks and/or one that progressively gets worse are advised to contact their health care provider for evaluation and avoid contact with others, especially infants, young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. If you live with someone who has been diagnosed with whooping cough, or have had prolonged close contact, contact your health care provider as well.”

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