With an uptick in pertussis cases, including several hospitalizations, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County is stressing the importance of getting vaccinated from the disease.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is highly contagious and is one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.
It’s a particularly serious illness for infants.
“More than half of infants less than one year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized and in rare cases, pertussis can be deadly,” said Public Health Medical Director Dr. Michael Dohn.
There have been seven cases so far in November in Montgomery County and 59 cases so far this year.
Some recent reports include a case confirmed Friday at Orchard Park Elementary School and on Monday at Van Buren Middle School in the Kettering City School District. Warren County Health District also confirmed 26 cases in the Springboro School District this year.
People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.
Pertussis typically begins with cold-like symptoms and sometimes a mild cough or fever before progressing to severe coughing fits which can include uncontrollable, violent coughing and can make it difficult to breathe.
Infants and young children often catch the illness from a family member or other caregiver and are most at risk from serious complications. Babies with pertussis may not cough, but may gag and gasp instead, as well as have a symptom known as “apnea,” which is a pause in a child’s breathing pattern.
Seeking treatment when pertussis symptoms first start is important. Adults or children that are having trouble breathing should seek medical attention immediately.
Melissa Wervey Arnold, CEO, Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, said the best defense is vaccination, especially anyone who is going to be around infants who aren’t fully vaccinated.
Immunity, whether from getting the vaccine or from having the disease, typically wears off within five years, leaving previously immune children susceptible again by adolescence. Individuals and families providing care to a new baby may need a pertussis booster shot to provide protection for infants who haven’t had a chance to get the full series of vaccinations yet.
Other prevention steps include covering coughs and sneezes, good hand washing and using alcohol based hand sanitizer, said Arnold.
She said it’s also disease that can spread from coughing and sneezing and also particularly affects the same target group: young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
“It’s not as prevalent but we have to remember that flu is actually the deadliest vaccine preventable disease in the United States and it’s the same target people, elderly babies
Arnold said that when people are thinking about pertussis, it’s also good to think about preventing the flu, which is also a vaccine-preventable disease that can spread from coughing and sneezing and also particularly affects the same target group: young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
The flu season just started and there have been 108 flu-associated hospitalizations in Ohio so far this season. In the past five years, there have been anywhere between 3,690 flu-related hospital stays to 17,400 stays in Ohio.
“It’s not as prevalent but we have to remember that flu is actually the deadliest vaccine preventable disease in the United States,” Arnold said.
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