OBSERVER Staff Report
MAYVILLE - Whooping cough outbreaks that began earlier this year are continuing to grow in Livingston and Steuben counties, health officials say.
Steuben County Public Health Coordinator Gail Wechsler said more than 50 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have been diagnosed this year. Only one case of whopping cough was confirmed in the county last year. Wechsler said the cases have mostly been concentrated in the western part of the county, in the Wayland-Cohocton and Canisteo-Greenwood school districts.
"We've seen a few other sporadic cases elsewhere, but it's been mostly concentrated in those two areas," she said.
The disease stops being contagious after about three weeks of coughing, so Wechsler said after mid-July cases that originated in school systems should end.
The health department is managing the spread of the disease by consulting with patients about those who have spent more than an hour within their 3-feet radius.
Those identified are contacted, tested and put on antibiotics as a preventative measure or as a treatment, depending on the test results. Whooping cough cases are up across the state this year, Wechsler said. In 2009, the county had a smaller outbreak, with 17 confirmed cases.
Livingston County has also seen an increase in its number of confirmed cases. Last year only one person was diagnosed with whooping cough; this year, as of June 26, the county has had 84 positive lab reports.
On June 12 it was reported there were just 55 cases of whooping cough in Livingston County. The number of cases of upper respiratory illnesses has also increased, the Livingston County Department of Health said in a statement.
"I can't say why the numbers are up, it isn't that the vaccine isn't working," Wechsler said.
The vaccine for whooping cough is 80 to 85 percent effective, Wechsler said, so those who have been vaccinated can still contract the disease.
Whooping cough presents with cold or flu-like symptoms that turn into a persistent cough.
Wechsler said anyone with a persistent cough should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.
"As of today, we're not sure (the number of cases) is tapering off," she said.
Chautauqua Chautauqua County Public Health Director, Christine Schuyler said that pertussis (whooping cough) continues to be diagnosed in Chautauqua County. "We've seen a few other sporadic cases elsewhere, but it's been mostly concentrated in the southern part of the county," states 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.
"It is imperative that individuals experiencing a prolonged cough seek medical treatment to rule out pertussis," urges Schuyler. Early symptoms are similar to a common cold and then progress to a long series of coughs or "coughing fits" followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the "whoop" but may have a persistent cough that just won't go away. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate it. Vaccinated individuals may still be susceptible to the pertussis disease, but generally have milder symptoms.
Pertussis is easily spread by coughing or sneezing while having the disease and spreading it to others by 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 can be vital to the safety of your children that those around your infant, older siblings, alternate care givers, grandparents, receive the whooping cough vaccine. Because of how easily it is spread to infants, those coming in close contact with babies on a daily basis should be vaccinated against pertussis.
"If your child is ill with a cough, keep them home from school and/or daycare," says Schuyler, "all it takes is for one child to bring it into the school and you have this endless 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 (CDC), need 1 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 and most children receive 5 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% 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, please visit www.cdc.gov.