ASTORIA – Clatsop County health officials say the reported number of whooping cough, or pertussis, cases have slowed over the past two weeks.

“We are now seeing cases leveling off,” said Clatsop County Public Health Department Nurse Christy Larson. “It looks like it has quieted down and we are getting people not only evaluated and treated by their doctors, but those with the illness are staying home until their treatment is completed.”

The department had tallied 17 positive reports of pertussis between March and April. But Larson believes there could be more cases that have gone unreported.

“There are still a lot of doctors that are testing and treating possible whooping cough cases,” she said. “We definitely are seeing that as well. I am sure that there are more cases than what has been reported based on the fact of what we are hearing.”

The confirmed cases involved three adults, three infants, two toddlers and the rest school age children mostly from the Astoria School District. Those cases promoted the Health Department to issue two public alerts to encourage everyone in the county ages 2 months and above to be vaccinated against the illness.

On Friday, April 27 the department sent out a memo to parents of children in the Astoria School District describing the disease’s symptoms and means of spreading, and tips for prevention and treatment. Local healthcare providers were also notified. The department also sent out a letter to alert 900 Women Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition program clients of the illness.

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.

“Perussis can spread quickly,” said Larson. It is like influenza and a cold. “When people are coughing, those droplets can be inhaled by the nearest person. It is especially fast moving in schools where kids are confined in class.”

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.

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 following is information pertaining to the infection and prevention of pertussis, and what to do if you suspect pertussis. Clatsop County Department of Public is currently seeing high numbers of people with positive pertussis reports as well as people who have symptoms of pertussis.

Pertussis:

• Description:Pertussis or whooping cough is an upper respiratory infection caused by the Bordatella pertussis bacteria. Initial symptoms are similar to the common cold. Severe episodes of coughing fits start about 1-2+ weeks later. Spasms of coughing last from 6-10 weeks. It has been called the 100 day cough.

• How it is spread:It is spread by direct contact with respiratory secretions or by droplets produced from a cough or sneeze.

• Symptoms: Coughing comes in fits, episodes, or spasms of violent or barking cough, and can make breathing difficult. Coughing can break ribs, cause the person’s color to appear bluish, and cause vomiting or gagging. A whooping sound is sometimes noticed when breathing in—this occurs more often in infants and small children. Seizures (convulsions) and short loss of consciousness can occur.

• Complications: Pertussis is a serious disease that can cause permanent disability in infants, even death.Pertussis among older children, adults and those previously immunized can be milder than classic whooping cough.

• Period of contagiousness; People are most contagious during cold symptoms ( runny nose stage) and remain contagious until after the 5th day of starting the correct antibiotics. People who don’t take antibiotics are considered contagious for the first 21 days after the start of the cough.

• Close Contacts: People who have spent > 1 hour with someone with pertussis at a distance of up to 6 feet.

• High Risk Close Contacts in need of antibiotics: Pregnant women in the last 3 months of pregnancy, infants under the age of 1 year old and all household contacts of a case, if one of these 2 groups are in a household.

• Prevention:Pertussis vaccinations for children (DTaP vaccination) and teens and adults (TdaP vaccination),covering coughs, and frequent hand washing or hand sanitizing, especially after coughing.By the age of 2years old all children should have received 4 DTaPs. The 5thDTaP is due at age 4. The TdaP booster dose is due starting at age 11 and up.

What you should do:

• Do not attend school/class, childcare, or work in health care if you have been coughing repeatedly.

• Call your school/class, childcare or health care facilityif you think you might have pertussis.

• Seek medical careif youdevelop symptoms of pertussis and let your school/class, childcare or health care employer know what the doctor recommends.

• Make sure everyone in your household is up to date on their pertussis vaccinations—See above prevention bullet.

• People with pertussis may not go back to school/class, childcare or health care until after the 5th day of starting the correct antibiotic.The Health Department needs to be notified about those who do not take antibiotics.

Important:Pregnant Women in the last 3 months of pregnancy and infants under the age of 12 months who have direct contact with someone with pertussis are recommended to get preventative antibiotics for pertussis right away.

For more information, contact the Clatsop County Public Health Department at (503) 325-8500.

© 2012 Seaside Signal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


 

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