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Whooping cough, or pertussis, is back. According to the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, there are two probable cases of pertussis within Taylor County.
Letters are being sent home with students from the affected school about the situation, and students and faculty at schools within the county are encouraged to receive a pertussis immunization if they haven't already. In general, most children receive these immunizations during their first five years and then again when they are 10 years old.
Whooping cough is a bacterial disease, which initially produces cold-like symptoms, fever is absent or minimal, followed by a cough, which in adults can last for 100 days. Attacks of coughing can be so severe that patients produce a "whoop" and may vomit or even break ribs. Unfortunately the immunity from DTaP vaccine, which adolescents and adults received as children, has waned and these age groups are now susceptible.
Pertussis is a contagious disease and close contacts, those who share homes, are at risk. Contagiousness begins at onset of disease and lasts for three weeks. Antibiotic treatment started early (within the first week) can lower the contagious period. Antibiotic treatment started more than three weeks after onset may not alter the natural history of the illness. Close contacts of whooping cough cases should receive vaccination and antibiotic prophylaxis (five days of Zithromycin).
A new adult Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diptheria, pertussis), to boost the immunity, is now available. It should be given once in adolescent/adult life. The next time any adult requires a tetanus booster, he/she should choose this new vaccine to once again become protected from whooping cough.
Young babies are at greatest risk, as they have not yet been immunized against Pertussis. Pertussis is most severe in babies younger than six months; they may stop breathing as well as experience complications, which can include pneumonia and seizures. Hospitalization is usually required for infants with whooping cough.
The best test to diagnose a case of Pertussis is the nucleic acid (PCR) test from a nasopharyngeal swab. Unfortunately, the antibody blood test may be difficult to interpret and does not confirm the diagnosis.
Whooping cough is a reportable disease. Help us help you by reporting any/all cases to the Lake Cumberland District Health Department in order to curb outbreaks.
For more information, contact your local medical provider or Taylor County Health Department at 465-4191.