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He had trouble catching his breath.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said. “I would cough till I passed out.”
Wallace Feese, director of Taylor Regional Hospital’s laboratory, was diagnosed with whooping cough in January. He said the illness gave him a severe cough and made breathing difficult.
“It seemed like I had a lot of trouble getting over it,” he said. “I’m alright now, I just don’t want to have it again.”
Feese said he was given antibiotics, but it took about two months to get rid of the terrible cough. He said he recommends that residents talk to their doctors about getting the whooping cough vaccine.
Feese and several state and national health officials say they believe the number of people diagnosed with whooping cough could rise to record numbers this year.
Dr. Christine Weyman, Lake Cumberland District Health Department medical director, said there have been cases of whooping cough reported in the Lake Cumberland area, which includes Taylor County. She said she also believes there will be a rise in the number of those who get the illness this year.
Weyman said whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial disease that produces cold-like symptoms. She said fever is minimal but a cough associated with the illness can last for 100 days.
According to information Weyman provided, those who have whooping cough sometimes experience coughing attacks that cause vomiting or breaking ribs.
Weyman said whooping couch is contagious. She said antibiotics can lessen the contagiousness of the illness, though those who have been in contact with someone who has the illness should receive a vaccination as soon as possible.
According to information provided by Weyman, young babies are at the greatest risk of getting whooping cough because they haven’t been immunized against the illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine children have died of whooping cough so far this year.
A request for the number of whooping cough cases in Kentucky and Taylor County this year hasn’t been answered at press time.
However, Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, director of the Division of Epidemiology and Health Planning, has been quoted as saying that there have been 171 cases reported in Kentucky this year. He was also quoted as saying that the number is on track to break a record set two years ago of more than 300 cases.
According to the CDC, Washington state and Wisconsin have been hit hard with the disease so far, with about 3,000 reported cases in each.
At a recent telebriefing, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said what is happening in Washington is a reflection of what is happening nationwide, in that the whooping cough disease is very hard to control. Schuchat urged pregnant women and anyone in contact with babies get the whooping cough vaccination.
“We’re seeing a substantial increase in pertussis cases in the United States and in individual states like Washington,” she said.
“As of [July 19], nationwide, nearly 18,000 cases have been reported to CDC. That’s more than twice as many as we had at the same time last year. In fact, it’s more than we had in each of the past five years.
We may be on track for record-high pertussis rates this year. We may need to go back to 1959 to find a year with as many cases reported by this time so far.”
The year 2010 was the last peak year for whooping cough diagnosis, Schuchat said. During that year, more than 27,000 reported having the disease. Twenty-seven died of the illness. Twenty-five were infants.
Schuchat said the CDC is seeing higher occurrences of whooping cough in infants, older children and young teenagers.
She said the whooping cough vaccine remains the single most effective approach to prevent infection.
“It is critical to protect infants and others at high risk. I want to stress that unvaccinated children are at eight times higher risk of getting pertussis compared to children fully vaccinated,” she said. Weyman said the vaccine available can help boost children and adult immune systems to fight the whooping cough illness.
The LCDHD, which includes Taylor County, provides vaccines, she said. Anyone interested should contact their health department for information.