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Whooping Cough is now widespread in Western Nevada County


By: Rick Haffey via Nevada County Friday Memo

March 1, 2013 - The Nevada County Public Health Department has issued letter notifications to all parents, guardians and school staff that there is a Whooping Cough (Pertussis) outbreak in Western Nevada County. The spread of the disease was anticipated, but it has now become a widespread outbreak. The Nevada County Public Health Deptartment has provide some exclusion recommendations.

There are currently 12 reported cases of Pertussis. These involve 11 school-age children in 7 different schools and one pre-school child. Whooping cough outbreaks are difficult to contain because the initial infection often resembles a cold, flu or seasonal allergy. While not every cough is Pertussis, people who have persistent coughing spells may have whooping cough. Many adults remain unvaccinated for the disease as the vaccine only became widely available for use in adolescents and adults in 2005.

People with whooping cough may have coughing spells in which they can’t catch their breath between coughs. As they catch their breath at the end of a coughing spell, they may loudly gasp (“whoop”) and vomit or feel like they are choking. Young babies with whooping cough may not have a cough but may have trouble breathing and gag, gasp, turn color or vomit. There is usually no fever with whooping cough.

Whooping cough is very contagious. The vaccine usually protects against whooping cough but is not 100% effective and immunity from the vaccine wanes over time. Many teens and adults have not received the recommended Tdap (Tetanus Diphtheria and Pertussis vaccine for teens and adults) booster for whooping cough. Unvaccinated and under-vaccinated people are at higher risk for the infection and for more severe infection. To protect your health and the health of our community, please check your and your child’s immunization status and get any needed vaccinations or boosters. It is now recommended that women receive a whooping cough booster with each pregnancy.

Antibiotics can prevent the spread of whooping cough and are recommended for those with whooping cough and for their household contacts and for some contacts who are at high risk of becoming very sick or take care (healthcare workers, babysitters, grandparents, etc.) of those at high risk for getting sick. Those at high risk are babies and infants less than a year of age, pregnant women (particularly in the third trimester), and those with weakened immune systems. Babies should be kept away from people with a cough if at all possible and babies with any trouble breathing or a coughing illness should be checked by a doctor right away.

The DTaP (Diphtheria Tetanus and Pertussis vaccine recommended for pre-adolescents) is 95% effective in preventing all three diseases that is immunizes against-diphtheria, tetanus and Pertussis. It is 59-89% effective in preventing Pertussis, while the protection rates for diphtheria and tetanus are higher. Pertussis occasionally occurs in children who have received the Pertussis immunization, but it is usually less severe and has fewer complications.

Vaccines, including Pertussis-containing vaccines have been incorrectly blamed for many things in the past. There is no evidence to support a casual role for DTaP vaccines as a cause of asthma, autism, type 1 diabetes, brain damage, or sudden infant death syndrome.

More information on whooping cough is available on the California Department of Public Health website at: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/Pertussis.aspx and on the Nevada County website: http://www.mynevadacounty.com/nc/hhsa/ph.


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