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Tompkins County Health Department Reports an Increase in Pertussis

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Tompkins County Health Department Reports an Increase in Pertussis

Monday, December 4, 2017

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial disease spread person to person through coughs or sneezes. Pertussis can affect anyone at any age, but it is particularly harmful to infants who are too young to be vaccinated.

Pertussis is cyclical in nature. Year to date there have been 21 confirmed cases, 9 cases were reported during November.In 2016, there were 4 cases; 2015 had 4 cases; 2014 had 14 cases. In 2012, there was a spike of cases with a total of 105.

Karen Bishop, Director of Community Health at Tompkins County Health Department warns that complications from pertussis may include pneumonia, middle ear infection, loss of appetite, dehydration, seizures, and episodes of brief cessation of breathing. “Infants are particularly at risk from older siblings, parents, or caregivers who may be carrying the bacteria. The incubation period is usually 5 to 10 days but may be as long as 21 days,” she said.

Pertussis begins with mild cold symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within 2 weeks, the cough becomes more severe and is characterized by episodes of numerous rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop.” Coughing episodes may persist for 2 to 3 months and are more frequent at night.

“If people are exposed and develop symptoms,” Karen Bishop says, “they should stay home from work, school and social gatherings to avoid exposing friends and extended family, until they are medically evaluated and treated.”

If you or your child has a persistent cough, call your doctor to determine if an evaluation is necessary.

 If the doctor suspects that you or your child may have pertussis:

  • A test can be given to determine if you are positive for pertussis. An antibiotic may be prescribed.
  • If given an antibiotic, be sure to stay home, out of school and work, away from extended family and friends, until at least five daysof the antibiotic are completed.
  • If your child is diagnosed with pertussis, call the school to inform them.

Make sure your family’s vaccinations are up-to-date. The single most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community.Children ages 2 months to 6 years should receive all age appropriate doses of DTaP vaccine which includes a booster dose between the ages of 4 and 6 years. Children 7 years of age and older, adolescents, and adults should receive a different pertussis containing vaccine – Tdap – a one-time dose that will ensure ongoing protection.

Tdap and DTaP vaccines are available at local providers or at the Tompkins County Health Department. Call 274-6616 for an appointment.