More local reports of pertussis have been received by the Clatsop County Public Health Department, prompting the office to again encourage everyone in the county ages 2 months and older to be vaccinated against the illness, also known as whooping cough.

The department has tallied a total of 14 positive reports of pertussis since March 16. The reports involve 10 school-age children as well as one infant, two toddlers and one adult.

On Friday, the department sent out a memo to parents of children in the Astoria School District, where all but one of the cases involving schoolchildren have been reported up to now. The memo describes the disease’s symptoms and means of spreading, and tips for prevention and treatment. Local health-care providers were also notified.

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.

Parents whose children have been coughing repeatedly are advised to keep their children home from school, and to contact school officials if they believe their child has pertussis.

Margo Lalich, director of the county’s public health department, said the outbreak was not the result of lax vaccinations in the county. She said pertussis – much like the flu – can spread even when vaccinations exist. But she urged people who have not received vaccinations to get them.

It’s not just Clatsop County that’s seeing an outbreak. Washington has received about 900 reports of pertussis, while Oregon has had more than 120 since January. Lalich said she expects the number of cases to drop after the school year ends.

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 what’s known as a “DTaP” vaccination – which prevents against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis for children ages 2 months through 6 years of age – a “Tdap” 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 recommending the Tdap booster for all children ages 10 years and up in the Astoria School District who have not received a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccination in the past five years. Since school law only requires Tdap for grades 7 through 10, children in grades 5-6, as well as grades 11-12, may be at risk.

The department is encouraging everyone in the county 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.

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