ASTORIA - As a result of several recent cases of pertussis locally, the Clatsop County Public Health Department is encouraging everyone in the county ages 2 months and above to be vaccinated against the illness, also known as whooping cough.

The department is reporting a total of six positive reports of pertussis – a 2-year-old child, four school-age children and a 31-year-old adult. On Tuesday the health department sent out a memo to parents of schoolchildren describing the disease’s symptoms and means of spreading, and tips for prevention and treatment.

Based on current data, it is likely there are many more pertussis cases than the six positive reports, as providers frequently do not test for the disease. Additionally, there is likely a large segment of the high school population that is susceptible to pertussis, since school law currently only requires freshman to be vaccinated.

Symptoms of pertussis include coughing “fits” sometimes followed by a “whooping” noise, vomiting, or the inability to catch one’s breath – the illness has been called “the 100-day cough.” People with pertussis are contagious for about three weeks or until after the fifth day of an appropriate antibiotic regime. In spite of antibiotics, severe coughing may last for months.

Pertussis can be life-threatening in infants up to 12 months old. Pregnant women in their third trimester are also considered high-risk because of the potential of passing the infection to their newborns. Adults with severe cases may develop pneumonia and need hospitalization. Adults and teenagers may spread the disease to infants and young children.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends DtaP (diphterhia, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccination for children ages 2 months through 6 years of age, TdaP (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) vaccination for children between ages 7 and 11 who have not completed the initial DtaP series, and TdaP booster vaccination for all adolescents ages 11 through 18 years of age and all adults.

Clatsop County Public Health is encouraging everyone to review his or her vaccination records and contact their primary care provider or Clatsop County Public Health Department at (503) 325-8500. Pertussis vaccines are available at low or no cost through Clatsop County.