MAYVILLE - A continued and marked increase in the number of cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, has been identified by the Chautauqua County Health Department.
"Our nursing staff is currently investigating several cases of pertussis and recommending preventive treatment for those exposed," said Christine Schuyler, county public health director. "These cases are predominantly in the south county but because of cross-county activities such as school sports, this very contagious disease can quickly spread. The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated."
Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, is very contagious and can cause serious illness, especially in infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and children less than one year old. Health officials stress the importance of making sure that infants and young children get the recommended series of immunizations on time. Adolescent and adult vaccination is also important, especially for families with new infants as the vaccine prevents people from getting pertussis and passing it along to the baby, who could get very ill and even die. Caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with the baby, including grandparents, should also get vaccinated.
Pertussis is spread through the air during close contact from a sick person when talking, sneezing or coughing. 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.
"With pertussis circulating in the community, there is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch this very contagious disease. When you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your health care provider," Schuyler said.
The pertussis vaccine is routinely given to children at 2, 4, 6, and 12 to 15 months of age, and then between 4 and 6 years of age. Since immunity can fade over time, periodic "booster" doses are needed by adolescents and adults to keep immunity strong. Parents with children less than 7 years of age who have not been completely immunized against pertussis (particularly infants under one year), should talk to their child's doctor about the benefits of vaccination. Students entering the sixth grade in New York State are required to receive one booster dose of pertussis.
The following adult groups get a single dose of Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis) vaccination regardless of how long it's been since they have received a tetanus only vaccine:
Adults of any age, including adults age 65 years and older, in contact with infants younger than age 12 months, such as parents, grandparents and child care providers, who have not received a dose of Tdap.
Pregnant women, preferably after 20 weeks' gestation.
Health care personnel of all ages.
For more information, please call the Chautauqua County Health Department at 866-604-6789 or visit www.cdc.gov.