08/19/08 — Whooping cough outbreak concerns county health officials

View Archive

Whooping cough outbreak concerns county health officials

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 19, 2008 1:39 PM

A recent outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, in Duplin County, has prompted Health Director James Roosen to issue an advisory to the public.

According to reports, more than 30 people have become ill, with some of the Duplin cases originating in children who had earlier been immunized.

Pertussis is considered a vaccine-preventable disease but over time a vaccinated person can lose immunity. Protection from this vaccine can reportedly diminish over time and has resulted in several outbreaks nationally.

"I knew that we were having a problem with pertussis but our neighbor just south of us has really had a problem," Roosen said Monday afternoon. "They have to treat the contacts of each of the people that have pertussis, which may be 10 or 20 people, so they have to go and investigate that.

"It's really kept them hopping. I'm trying to keep that from happening in Wayne County."

Roosen said he had received a call from a work site about two possible cases of pertussis, both people who had contact with Duplin residents who had it.

At this point, efforts are being geared toward prevention or certainly early detection. It will also be important for parents to consider a booster of the pertussis vaccine to strengthen children's immunity, he added.

"We want to start the educational process so parents, teachers, child care operators will know the symptoms and help us with surveillance," he said.

Earlier in the year, the state announced it is mandatory for rising sixth-graders to get a T-Dap booster, which is for tetanus, diptheria and pertussis.

Pertussis usually begins with symptoms similar to that of a common cold. It is spread through direct contact with respiratory droplets from the nose of infected individuals and is highly contagious.

Symptoms can last for many weeks and is typically manifested in children with repeated violent coughing spasms often followed by vomiting. Major complications include pneumonia, seizures, and malnutrition. Pneumonia is often the most common cause of death. Severe complications are most common among infants and young children, particularly those that have not been vaccinated. Adolescents and adults can become sick from the bacteria that cause pertussis when their immunity has declined.

Since it is a vaccine-preventable disease, children as well as adults need to be properly immunized, Roosen said.

Vaccination against pertussis is available through the Wayne County Health Department, Monday through Thursday, from 7-11:30 a.m. and 1-5 p.m. Individuals may also contact their private physician to receive the vaccine.

At the Health Department, a booster dose of T-Dap is available at no charge to clients 10 to 64 years of age.

But the simplest piece of advice, Roosen noted, is to frequently wash hands with soap and water and to cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.