Disease is preventable with a vaccine
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 13, 2016) — Kentucky public health officials reported 87 cases of pertussis—commonly known as whooping cough—from August to December 2015. The highest number of cases was in Jefferson County and Northern Kentucky.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by bacteria and is transmitted through respiratory droplets from sneezing, coughing or talking. This vaccine-preventable disease can be deadly to infants too young to have been fully vaccinated.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) recommends all Kentuckians who meet age recommendations receive the vaccine, particularly individuals who are providing care for infants under the age of six months old.
“It’s important for communities to work together to control the spread of the disease,” said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, senior deputy commissioner at DPH. “Developing community-wide immunity through vaccination is an important strategy for pertussis control. We strongly encourage those who haven’t done so to get an adolescent or adult pertussis booster vaccine.”
Caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, whooping cough is contracted by breathing in contaminated respiratory droplets or from contact with articles freshly contaminated with infected droplets. Early symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and low-grade fever. After one to two weeks, long coughing spells develop, which can last for weeks. Whooping cough can create both health and economic burdens, resulting in missed work and school days, numerous doctor visits and sometimes hospitalization or death.
Though anyone can get whooping cough, the illness can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, infants younger than 12 months, and anyone with a pre-existing health condition that could worsen with a severe cough. Examples of such pre-existing conditions include cystic fibrosis or other chronic lung diseases, moderate to severe medically treated asthma, severe heart disease or a weakened immune system.
Infants are recommended to receive their first dose of pertussis vaccine, in combination with diphtheria and tetanus (DTaP), at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months of age. Boosters are given as early as 12 months through 18 months and then around age 4 or 5. People ages 10 to 64 should get a pertussis booster, called Tdap. Parents should assure that children are current on their vaccinations.
Pregnant women should receive Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy, even if they have received Tdap previously, to protect themselves during the pregnancy and provide protection for their newborn until six months of age.
More information about whooping cough can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/.