Pertussis Continues to Concern Public Health Officials

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September 6, 2012
Valdosta – While South Georgia is not experiencing the Pertussis (better known as whooping cough) outbreak that many states are facing right now, Public Health Officials continue to urge Georgians to take precautions to fight against this potentially deadly disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the first half of 2012, increased pertussis cases or outbreaks were reported in 46 states. There have been 13 pertussis-related deaths; with infants being the most affected.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection characterized by a prolonged cough sometimes associated with a signature “whoop” sound. Symptoms are often like those of a common cold. Adults or children may have the disease and not know it: it starts with a runny nose, sneezing, and a mild fever, but after a couple of weeks, a severe cough develops and lasts for a prolonged period of time.

According to January Smith, District Epidemiologist, for older children, adolescents and adults the health impact can be limited, with symptoms clearing up without long-term effects. Unfortunately, infants who aren’t old enough to be adequately vaccinated can have serious complications. More than half of infants less than one year of age, who get the disease, must be hospitalized.

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to be vaccinated. Vaccine recommendations are:
• All infants and children should receive age-appropriate doses of DTaP.
• A booster dose of Tdap is routinely recommended for adolescents at 11-12 years of age when other vaccines are given and for older adolescents and adults even if it has been less than 10 years since their last Tetanus booster.
• It is very important for females planning pregnancy, pregnant women, new mothers, and family members and caregivers of infants to be vaccinated with Tdap.

Other prevention methods for whooping cough are washing your hands frequently throughout the day using warm, soapy water or alcohol-based sanitizer; cover your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when you sneeze or cough; and avoid contact with high-risk populations if symptoms appear.

It is important to remember that people with pertussis are contagious until they have completed 5 days of antibiotics. People diagnosed with the illness are advised to stay home until their antibiotics are completed to avoid spreading it.

For more information visit or call your local health department.