Whooping cough cases on the rise Linn County

This year brought a significant increase in whooping cough cases (technically called pertussis) to Linn County, and public health officials want to raise public awareness of the problem.

In 2004, 35 cases of whooping cough were reported to Linn County, Linn County Department of Health Services nursing supervisor Francey Hood-Fysh, RN, said. “This is a stark contrast to the previous 15 years when zero to four cases per year were reported.

“In older children and adults, pertussis causes a prolonged, uncomfortable cough, but in infants, it can be fatal. The best way to protect young children is to make sure they are vaccinated, starting when the infant is two months old.”

Children should receive four or five doses of “DtaP” vaccine before age five, Hood-Fysh said, however, while the vaccine is effective in children, its protection begins to wear off with time. Adolescents and adults are once again susceptible. No vaccine is available for adolescents or adults.

Pertussis is a respiratory illness characterized by coughing fits that may last six weeks or more. The first symptoms begin four to 21 days after exposure but usually within seven to 10 days. Early symptoms often include runny nose, sneezing and a mild cough followed in a few days by coughing fits. In young children, these can be accompanied by vomiting, breathlessness or a whooping sound as they try to catch their breath.

Anyone who has had cold-like symptoms followed by coughing for more than seven days should consult a physician. In general, persons with prolonged cough or severe coughing fits or who otherwise think they might have pertussis should stay at home until evaluated and treated by a physician, Hood-Fysh said.

To minimize risk of contracting pertussis and other respiratory illnesses, health officials recommend the following:

— Frequent hand washing.

— Cover your mouth when coughing.

— Review your young children’s shot records. A 2-year-old child should have had four doses of DtaP vaccine and five doses by the age of five unless there is a medical reason not to give the vaccine. No vaccine is available in the United States for persons over the age of seven.

— See a doctor if you have cold-like symptoms followed by episodes of coughing for more than seven days.

Physicians and laboratories are required by law to report diagnosed pertussis cases to Linn County Public Health Department. The Health Department is responsible for investigating cases, notifying contacts and providing advice about treatment and prevention.