Whooping cough outbreak possible in NC

November 25, 2008 2:35:24 PM PST
Officials are warning about a possible outbreak of whooping cough in several counties.

Seven cases have now been reported at Estes Hills Elementary School in Chapel Hill. Administrators are asking parents to keep a close eye on their children and watch for symptoms.

Pertussis is an acute bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that is caused by the organism Bordatella Pertussis. It is transmitted through close contact with an infected person's respiratory droplets.

Symptoms of pertussis may begin with cold-like symptoms that progress to include a cough of at least 2 weeks duration.

The cough is often characterized as being paroxysmal (multiple coughs following each other closely without time for a breath in between), is often followed by a loud inspiration at the end of the cough which sounds like a "whoop" and may be followed by vomiting.

Younger infants may have apneic (no breathing) episodes with this illness. While older children and adults may have milder illness, pertussis can be quite serious in infants and the elderly and often results in hospitalization. Symptoms usually begin 7-10 days after exposure, but can take up to 21 days to appear.

There are at least two confirmed cases of pertussis in Moore County. Earlier this month there was one confirmed and several suspected cases in Chatham County.

Most people have been immunized against pertussis.

Children are routinely immunized with DtaP (Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccine at ages 2, 4, 6, and 12 months and at 4-5 years of age. A booster dose of Tdap (the vaccine used for adolescents and adults) is now required for students when they enter 6th grade.

Though the vaccine is good, it is not 100 percent effective in preventing pertussis and immunity to pertussis decreases over time as children get older.

Cases currently being reported by county health departments are as follows:

Durham-2 cases
Orange-7
Moore-9
Wake-0
Johnston-0

For additional information about pertussis, click here.


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