MAYVILLE - Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County public health director, said that pertussis (whooping cough) continues to be diagnosed in Chautauqua County.
"We've seen a few sporadic cases elsewhere, but the disease seems mostly concentrated in the southern part of the county," said Schuyler, "outbreaks at middle schools and high schools along with institutional settings are common."
According to the CDC, cases of pertussis are higher in 2012 than they've been in almost 50 years.
An easily spread infection, pertussis settles in the respiratory system and causes those infected to cough, sometimes uncontrollably. The cough can make a "whooping" sound, hence the nickname "whooping cough" although older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the "whoop" but may have a persistent cough that won't go away.
"It is imperative that individuals experiencing a prolonged cough seek medical treatment to rule out pertussis," said Schuyler.
Pertussis is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, not washing hands or just being in close contact. Babies are highly sensitive to pertussis and can have severe reactions to the disease, including death. It is vital to the safety of your children that those around your infant including older siblings, alternate care givers, and grandparents, receive the whooping cough vaccine. Because of how easily the disease is spread to infants, anyone coming in close contact with babies on a daily basis should be vaccinated against pertussis.
"If your child is ill with a persistent cough, keep them home from school and/or daycare," said Schuyler, "all it takes is for one child to bring it into the school and you have this chain of transmission that is hard to stop."
There are several explanations for the rise in pertussis, but the most likely is waning immunity after vaccination. "Immunity wears off, especially for adults who are decades past their most recent vaccination," says Schuyler, "get immunized and stay up to date with immunizations."
Most adults, according to the Center for Disease Control, need one dose of the pertussis vaccine every 10 years. Pregnant women are vaccinated in the late second or early third trimester with Tdap, to reduce the chances of transmitting whooping cough to their newborn infant. Most infants begin vaccinations at 2 months old and most children receive five doses of the vaccine from birth to 6 years old, with a booster at 10-12 years. Additional information from the CDC states that only 8 percent of the adults in the USA are vaccinated against whooping cough.
To obtain vaccinations, contact your health care provider or call the Chautauqua County Health Department at 1-866-604-6789. For more information on Pertussis/Whooping Cough, visit www.cdc.gov.