MAYVILLE - Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County public health director, said pertussis, or whooping cough, continues to be diagnosed in Chautauqua County.
"We've seen a few sporadic cases elsewhere, but the disease seems 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 were higher in 2012 than they've been in almost 50 years.
An easily spread infection, pertussis settles in the respiratory system and causes those infected to cough, sometimes uncontrollably. The cough can make a "whooping" sound, hence the nickname "whooping cough" although older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the "whoop" but may have a persistent cough that won't go away.
"It is imperative that individuals experiencing a prolonged cough seek medical treatment to rule out pertussis," Schuyler said.
Pertussis is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, 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 is vital to the safety of your children that those around your infant including older siblings, alternate caregivers and grandparents, receive the whooping cough vaccine. Because of how easily the disease is spread to infants, anyone coming in close contact with babies on a daily basis should be vaccinated against pertussis.
"If your child is ill with a persistent 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 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. "Get immunized and stay up to date with immunizations."
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/Whooping Cough, visit www.cdc.gov.