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Whooping cough strikes mother and child

Posted Monday, June 27, 2005

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Chatham County's first two cases of whooping cough of the year were reported last week.

A mother and her infant were diagnosed with pertussis, or whooping cough, which can cause such bad coughing that it can become difficult for babies to eat, drink or breathe. Household and close contacts to both the mother and the infant have been identified and are receiving preventive medications. The risk to the public is low based on the way the disease is spread

Whooping cough may lead to seizures, pneumonia, brain damage and death.

Whooping cough is not highly contagious, but vaccines can prevent it. Children younger than 6 are required to be vaccinated against pertussis and other diseases regularly.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a vaccine preventable disease. In 2004, there were two reported cases of Pertussis in Chatham County; there were no reported cases in 2003. There were 101 reported cases statewide in 2004 and 144 in 2003.

All children living in North Carolina are required to get 5 doses of the DTaP vaccine (to prevent Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis), one dose at the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and 4-6 years (prior to school entry). It may be given at the same time as other vaccines. This vaccine and many others are provided for children at no cost through the Health Department and through many of the area physician offices.

Before a vaccine was available, pertussis killed 5,000 to 10,000 people in the United States each year. Now, the pertussis vaccine has reduced the annual number of deaths to less than 30.

Research on Pertussis shows that immunity begins to wane by the late teens and early adulthood, leaving many adults at risk for getting the disease. However, Pertussis generally only produces mild symptoms in adults, older children, and adolescents and often goes unnoticed or is attributed to the "common cold." The DTaP vaccine is not used on children older than 7 years of age.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that Pertussis can cause coughing spells so bad that it is hard for infants to eat, drink, or breathe. These spells can last for weeks. It can lead to pneumonia, seizures (jerking and staring spells), brain damage, and death. Pertussis is spread from person to person by cough droplets.

Vaccinations are available free at the Chatham County Public Health Department. For more information, call the Health Department at 542-8220.

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