Thursday, Jul 19 2012 -
San Juan County has seen sporadic cases of Pertussis all year on all three islands since the outbreak in October of 2011 on San Juan Island. This month two new cases have been confirmed cases – one on Orcas, the other on San Juan Island.
County Health Department officials are asking County residents to be alert for a cough illness that is not resolving in 7 or more days particularly if sufferer is having a hard time catching breath or is gagging after a coughing episode. Listen to the sounds of Pertussis in both a child and adult at http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/
Normally, only severe cases of Pertussis will demonstrate a whoop. In-between violent coughing spells, people will appear normal and will be able to go about their daily routine. Coughing spells are frequently at night due to the increased mucus production from the bacteria and can cause broken sleep and exhaustion for everyone in the family.
Pertussis affects people of all ages, which is why the Tdap vaccine is recommended for all adults as well as a booster for adolescents at 10-11 years of age. Women who are over 20 weeks pregnant can be vaccinated, and infants can begin the series of vaccinations at 2 months and complete by 6 months. Infants need 3 immunizations and children two booster doses to be protected. San Juan County Health Department has low cost vaccine available on a sliding scale.
Even adults who do not have direct contact with infants are recommended to get the Tdap vaccine in order to reduce the amount of illness in our community and to prevent the further spread in our community to those who cannot be vaccinated. School age children and adults are the major reservoir for Pertussis in our community.
Even individuals who have been vaccinated, can still develop Pertussis because the vaccine is only about 70% effective. That means 7 out of 10 people who get vaccinated will not get Pertussis despite being exposed. Those that do get Pertussis tend to have milder illnesses and shorter duration of symptoms, and reduced risk of severe outcomes. They are also less infectious to the rest of our community.
Over time, the vaccine effectiveness wears off as does immunity from Pertussis illness. County Health officials urge parents whose child’s cough is not going away, not to wait, but call a health care provider and ask for a Pertussis test. “Trust your instincts” is the recommendation from one family who is struggling with coughing spells of Pertussis. People who may have been exposed to Pertussis or have been a close contact of someone who is coughing, should stay home from work and avoid social contacts to avoid spreading the illness.
Call your health care provider for an evaluation, ask to be tested, and if prescribed antibiotics, stay home for the full 5 days of treatment. San Juan County’s Personal Health Services Manager Susan Leff advises that the most effective strategy to interrupt Pertussis transmission in our community and protect our infants who are most at risk for severe Pertussis is to vaccinate all children on time and give an on time booster dose to adolescents and adults.
Additional information is available at http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/WhoopingCough.aspx
For information about Pertussis or for low-cost Tdap vaccine, call your health care provider or San Juan County Health Department at 378-4474