Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

May 7, 2014

Whooping cough case confirmed in area

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — The Barren River District Health Department has confirmed an outbreak of pertussis – commonly knowns as whooping cough – in the eight-county Barren River area.

Teresa Casey, manager of the communicable disease team, said Wednesday that Barren County is among five counties in the Barren River area that have reported cases of whooping cough. More than 35 cases have been reported.

Health officials use the “outbreak” designation when it learns of more than the usual number of cases within a particular group of people, such as a classroom, long-term care center or office building. With whooping cough, anything more than one or two cases is more than usual, Casey said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, an estimated 16 million cases of pertussis and about 195,000 deaths occur each year worldwide.

Children, particularly school-age kids, are typically more susceptible to whooping cough because it’s easiest to pass communicable illnesses within this age group. They aren’t as conscious of germs and are in environments where germs are easily transmitted, Casey said.

“If you suspect you, or your child, has it (whooping cough), you need to call your health care provider immediately so that you can begin a course of treatment,” Casey said.

When whooping cough is caught early enough, the best course of treatment is the appropriate antibiotics. After five days of antibiotics, a person is no longer considered contagious. If a course of antibiotics is not administered, however, it would be 21 days until the cough and contagion were abated.

According to the CDC website, pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics, which control the symptoms and prevent spreading the disease.

However, Casey said a person who is vaccinated might still get whooping cough, “it would just be less severe, and easier to manage.”

Whooping cough usually begins with symptoms similar to the common cold, with a runny nose, fatigue, then a mild cough which turns into hard fits of coughing. High-risk groups are infants less than 12 months old, women in their last three months of pregnancy and people who have compromised immune systems, Casey said.

Because a person can be contagious 10 days before showing symptoms of pertussis, and can remain contagious at least 21 days after decreased symptoms (without antibiotics), Casey said, the incubation period is around 31 days.

“The best thing to do is make sure you and your children are up to date on vaccinations,” Casey said, as adults are usually apt to spread whooping cough to their infants. “We cannot stress that enough, parents need to be vaccinated, too, if they have small children.”

The vaccine that helps stave whooping cough is the Dtap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), which is available at most health care providers and health department offices, Casey said.

“Get vaccinated if you aren’t,” Casey said. “Make sure those who are higher risk are vaccinated and take care when around those infected. If you get sick, stay home from school or work to try to prevent it from spreading.”

For more information on the symptoms of whooping cough, including what the cough sounds like in adults and children, Casey suggests visiting the CDC website.