MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Public Health Director Christine Schuyler said pertussis, or whooping cough, continues to be diagnosed in Chautauqua County.
"We've seen a few other sporadic cases elsewhere, but it's been mostly concentrated in the southern part of the county," Schuyler said. "Outbreaks at middle schools and high schools along with institutional settings are common."
According to the Center for Disease Control, cases of pertussis are higher in 2012 than they've been in almost 50 years.
"It is imperative that individuals experiencing a prolonged cough seek medical treatment to rule out pertussis," Schuyler said.
Early symptoms are similar to a common cold and then progress to a long series of coughs or "coughing fits" followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the "whoop," but may have a persistent cough that just won't go away. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate it. Vaccinated individuals may still be susceptible to the pertussis disease, but generally have milder symptoms.
Pertussis is easily spread by coughing or sneezing while having the disease and spreading it to others by not washing hands or just being in close contact. Babies are highly sensitive to pertussis and can have severe reactions to the disease, including death. It can be vital to the safety of children that those around infants, older siblings, alternate care givers, grandparents, receive the whooping cough vaccine. Because of how easily it is spread to infants, those coming in close contact with babies on a daily basis should be vaccinated against pertussis.
"If your child is ill with a cough, keep them home from school and/or daycare," Schuyler said. "All it takes is for one child to bring it into the school and you have this endless chain of transmission that is hard to stop."
There are several explanations for the rise in pertussis, but the most likely is waning immunity after vaccination.
"Immunity wears off, especially for adults who are decades past their most recent vaccination," Schuyler said. "Tet immunized and stay up to date with immunizations."
According to the Center for Disease Control, most adults need one dose of the pertussis vaccine every 10 years. Pregnant women are vaccinated in the late second or early third trimester with Tdap to reduce the chances of transmitting whooping cough to their newborn infant. Most infants begin vaccinations at 2 months and most children receive five doses of the vaccine from birth to 6 years old, with a booster at 10 or 12 years old. Additional information from the CDC states only 8 percent of the adults in the U.S.A. are vaccinated against whooping cough.
To obtain vaccinations, contact a health care provider or call the Chautauqua County Health Department at 1-866-604-6789. For more information on pertussis, visit www.cdc.gov.