MOUNT VERNON — Knowing the symptoms and, more importantly, getting immunized, are essential for treating and preventing whooping cough (pertussis). As recently as 2010, Ohio tallied enough cases that it was considered an outbreak.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It is marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.”
However, many people don’t develop the characteristic whoop. Sometimes, a persistent hacking cough is the only sign that an adolescent or adult has whooping cough. It can be diagnosed by a blood test, a nose or throat culture, or a chest X-ray.
The Center for Disease Control reported that the United States experiences periodic epidemics every three to five years. In 2010, 27,550 cases were reported nationwide; Ohio had more than 3,000 cases, compared with about 2,200 in 2009, according to the Ohio Disease Reporting Surveillance System.
Karen Lee, a registered nurse for immunizations at the Knox County Health Department, stated there were 11 cases of whooping cough in Knox County in 2010; three cases in 2011; and, to date, two cases in 2012.
Lee stated that medical doctors are legally required to report cases to their county health department. She also explained that the Amish community is served by the health department and the health department goes to Danville twice a month for a satellite clinic.
Why does whooping cough continue to resurface despite immunizations?
According to the Mayo Clinic, whooping cough primarily affects children too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations. Children aren’t fully immune to whooping cough until they’ve received at least three shots. According to the Knox County Health Department, for maximum protection, children need five DTaP shots, and a booster vaccine is now mandatory for all children ages 11-12 years of age in 7th grade.
Health officials further recommend anyone with a baby or young children, or anyone who is around children, get the DTaP booster vaccine.