DeKalb County Health Dept. Notification - Pertussis
DATE: January 5, 2012
TO: DeKalb County News Media
FROM: Jane Lux
Public Health Administrator
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The DeKalb County Health Department is investigating two confirmed cases of pertussis, and anticipates the possibility of additional cases. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a vaccine preventable disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Symptoms start with a runny nose, mild fever and cough, similar to that of a cold, and progress to severe spasms of coughing that can interfere with eating, drinking and breathing. This cough can have a characteristic high-pitched “whoop,” which is more common in children. Coughing attacks occur more frequently at night. The attacks increase in frequency and can last two to three weeks. Cough medicines usually do not help eliminate this cough.
In recent years, there has been an increase in pertussis in adolescents and adults nationwide. Most of these cases have occurred in previously immunized people. According to Jane Lux, Public Health Administrator, many of the surrounding counties in northwest Illinois have been experiencing pertussis outbreaks. “We know this is a public health concern,” said Lux, “and we are not surprised to see cases in DeKalb County.”
The bacteria is spread from person to person by direct contact with respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing) from an infected individual, or by touching the fluid and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. In general, a person is at greater risk of getting pertussis if they are within approximately three feet of someone with pertussis for at least 10 minutes. This is considered close contact. The period between exposure to the bacteria and onset of illness is usually 5 to 10 days but may be as long as 21 days.
Although most people with pertussis recover, those at high risk for complications are infants under one year, the elderly, and others with chronic illness. Pertussis is treatable with antibiotics. Persons undergoing treatment for pertussis should not go to day care, school, work or public gatherings until at least five days after starting antibiotics. Lux advises anyone with suspicious symptoms to contact their health care provider. Lux also recommends the 3 C’s: Cover your cough, Contain (stay home) and Clean (wash hands frequently), to prevent the transmission of infection.
Prevention of secondary infections requires household and other close contacts being treated with antibiotics. Close contacts undergoing antibiotic treatment do not need to stay home, as their treatment is preventive.
Every child should receive the pertussis vaccine to prevent infection with pertussis at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age and again between the ages of 4 and 6 years of age. This vaccine is given in the same shot with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines. Immunization is required for child care and school attendance. New booster vaccines became available in 2005 that offer continued protection against pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus for adolescents and adults. According to Lux, the booster shot is a new school health requirement for entry into sixth grade, effective with the start of the next (2012-2013) school year.
Immunity following disease or vaccination is not lifelong. Older children and adults can become susceptible to pertussis five (5) to ten (10) years after their last dose of pertussis-containing vaccines. Older children and adults can carry the germ and spread it even though their cold-like symptoms may be mild. Lux stated that adolescents and adults should get a booster by receiving the combined vaccination for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) to enhance their immunity.
Pertussis vaccination is available at DeKalb County Health Department. To schedule an appointment, call (815) 748-2460 for children and 815-748-2467 for adults.
For more information on pertussis, see the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online resources as follows: