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Whooping cough cases on the rise locally

October 14, 2008
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - Several cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in Franklin County. This is a very serious disease, particularly for infants 1 year old.

The illness, also called pertussis, starts with cold symptoms and a cough which becomes worse over one to two weeks and may last for months. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs followed by a "whooping" noise, vomiting, turning blue or difficulty catching breath. Older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the "whoop." There is generally only a slight fever. The cough is often worse at night, and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.

According to its spokesman, Joe Riccio, the Adirondack Medical Center has seen an increase in the number of pertussis cases this year.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, annual confirmed cases of pertussis have gone up in the past few years since the development of a vaccination in the 1940s. A total of 25,827 cases were reported in 2004, the largest number since 1959. The reasons for the increase are not clear.

The most common complication of pertussis is secondary pneumonia. Other complications include middle-ear infection, loss of appetite, dehydration and neurological symptoms.

The best way to control the disease is to make sure that all children receive all their shots on time. By 15 months, children should receive four doses of DTaP vaccine with an additional dose of DTaP before they start school. One dose of Tdap a (different immunization for a different age group) is recommended for anyone ages 11 through 64.

Persons in direct contact with someone with pertussis should receive preventative treatment or prophylaxis with antibiotics. Close contact is defined as being three feet or less away from an individual when they cough. Other examples could include sharing the same beverage, lipstick, kissing or the same breathing space of three or less feet, as in a car.

The state Department of Health has issued the following recommendations:

Infants under 1 year old, especially those less than 6 months, are most likely to have severe symptoms if they develop pertussis. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be seen promptly by their doctor.

DTaP vaccine is given to children ages 2 months up to 7 years. Tdap is given to ages 11 to 64. Those who have not been fully immunized need to contact their health-care providers.

A person who has been within three feet of an individual that has been coughing and who has not tested positive for pertussis should be treated with Zithromax for five days, even if they are not ill.

If a person has been in contact as mentioned above and is ill with a cough, suggested treatment is to have a nasopharyngeal swab done along with taking Zithromax for five days. A nasopharyngeal swab test is performed by a sterile cotton-tipped swab being passed through the nostril and into the nasopharynx, the part of the pharynx that covers the roof of the mouth. The swab is quickly rotated and then removed.

A person with pertussis is not considered infectious after five days of Zithromax.



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