FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 13, 2016)— Kentucky experienced a rise in reported cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at the end of 2015, with public health officials reporting 87 cases of the illness between August and December. 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, so it’s especially important for parents and caregivers of young children to be up-to-date on immunizations.
Furthermore, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) reminds all Kentuckians who meet age recommendations to receive vaccine, particularly for individuals who are providing care for infants under the age of six months old.
The highest concentration of cases occurred in Jefferson County and the Northern Kentucky region. Kentuckians of all ages have been impacted.
“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.”
Whooping cough is a vaccine-preventable disease. DPH strongly encourages all Kentuckians to remain up-to-date on immunizations against whooping cough. A series of vaccines is available for children to protect them against the disease. Teens and adults should be protected with a booster.
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 of pertussis 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.
Community immunity can be increased through improved vaccination of all age groups. 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/