Whooping cough case confirmed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Curtis Dickson, Hertford County Health Director, announced there has been a confirmed case of pertussis (Whooping Cough) in Hertford County and that the patient is a three-month old infant.

There are two additional suspected cases. The public health agency has done contact tracing on 20 individuals, believed potentially exposed to the disease.

Appropriately, preventive therapy has been initiated for those potential exposures.

In addition, the agency is attempting to contact 14 individuals who potentially came into contact with the infected infant in the hospital emergency room setting.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease, with little or no fever, that causes coughing and gagging. An infected person has coughing episodes that may end in vomiting or cause a &uot;whoop&uot; sound when the person breathes in.

Dickson further reported &uot;Pertussis has not received sufficient national emphasis in recent years, although worldwide millions of cases and tens of thousands of death occur annually despite the availability of effective vaccines. It is difficult to diagnose pertussis because mild cases resemble a common cold; therefore, identifying the burden the disease places on our country goes greatly unrecognized. However, there is evidence that this disease may be increasing its burden in the United States.&uot;

Dickson continued, &uot;This disease is on the rise in our country, the reason(s) for which are, as yet, not completely understood. However, one reason may be that it under reported or undiagnosed in older children and adults because symptoms of pertussis, such as the signature &uot;whooping cough&uot;, are not always present. Also, mild cases of pertussis, which again are very hard to diagnose because the disease closely resembles the common cold, appears to be contributing to the spread of the disease&uot;, according to Dickson.

Symptoms appear between 6 to 21 years old (average 7-10) after exposure to an infected person. Pertussis usually starts with cold symptoms (runny nose, cough) followed by episodes of severe coughing that last 1-2 months. Vomiting may occur after severe coughing episodes. The person may look and feel healthy between coughing episodes.

Pertussis is spread through droplets from the mouth and nose of an infected person.

Persons treated with antibiotics are contagious until the first five days of appropriate antibiotic treatment have been completed.

A health care provider must prescribe an antibiotic active against pertussis. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Persons with pertussis should stay home and avoid contact with other others until five days of antibiotic treatment has ended. If people live or have close contact with a person infected with pertussis, they should take antibiotics to prevent pertussis.

Persons with pertussis should avoid contact with infants and expectant mothers, including visiting or working labor, delivery, and nursery areas of hospitals and child care settings.

Avoid sharing with infants any food, toys, or other object that may be contaminated with secretions from the mouth or nose of another person.

If children are due for their pertussis immunization, Dickson urged parents to insure that the child is taken to the family’s family healthcare provider or bring the child to the health department clinical office in Ahoskie. It is important to call for an appointment by dialing 252-862-4054.