Whooping cough alert
The Marion County Health Department is investigating an increased number of whooping cough cases in the county.
County health nurse Diedre Serene said the cases are “more than usual,” and the public needs to be aware.
Dr. Paige Dodson of St. Luke Medical Clinic in Marion serves as the director of medical services in the county. She said five or six cases have been identified so far, with most reported in Hillsboro. The Hillsboro school district has sent a letter from school nurse Alissa Unruh to parents advising them to take precautions to ensure the safety of students.
Although whooping cough is often thought of as a childhood disease, it can occur at any age. Also known as pertussis, it is a bacterial disease that is easily transmitted from person to person. It is spread through the air during talking, sneezing, or coughing. It can be a serious illness, especially in young infants.
Dodson said whooping cough is characterized by a chronic cough that can last up to four weeks or more. The disease gets its name from the “whooping” sound that young children may have as they try to catch their breath after a coughing fit.
During the first one to two weeks, individuals with whooping cough may only experience a runny nose and a non-productive cough, similar to a cold. After coughing, the individual often feels well. Coughing spells may continue for several weeks or months. Adults and children seven years or older who get whooping cough may have only a prolonged cough.
Anyone with a cough that persists for two weeks, without other explanation, should see a health care provider.
Usually, whooping cough is not accompanied by fever. Dodson said it does not respond to antibiotics, but antibiotics may be needed for all household members and others in close contact with the ill person to prevent spread of the disease.
The best defense against whooping cough is vaccination. Immunization is recommended at two, four, six, and 12 months of age, with a booster at kindergarten entry and every 10 years after that.
Parents are advised to keep infants, especially those less than six months of age, away from others with a cough illness. Infants are more likely to experience severe illness if they develop whooping cough.
For more information on pertussis or to be vaccinated, contact your physician or the Marion County Health Department at (620) 382-2550.
Last modified Oct. 15, 2014