Recent reports of Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Northern Kentucky have created record levels, according to the Northern Kentucky Health Department.
NKY health officials say since November 2015, there have been 172 cases reported in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties. Those numbers surpass previous outbreaks in 2012 (109 reported cases) and in 2010 (140 cases).
School-age children, aged 7 to 17 years, continue to account for the majority of reported cases in the current outbreak, according to NKY Health spokesperson Emily Wherle. More than 45 schools and child care centers have been impacted. School staff and parents are also at increased risk.
“Early symptoms of whooping cough mimic the common cold, so it is often not suspected or detected until more severe symptoms appear,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “Unfortunately, this means that people with whooping cough spread the disease to others before realizing that they are infected.”
Symptoms of whooping cough can differ by age.
NKY health officials say infants may have no apparent cough. Coughing spells, when they occur, may be so severe the infant’s face turns red or purple. Whooping cough is most concerning for infants under age 1.
In children, the health department lists early symptoms of whooping cough as runny noses, sneezing, low-grade fevers and a mild cough. After a week or two, a persistent cough develops which occurs in explosive bursts, sometimes ending with a high-pitched whoop and vomiting.
Adults with whooping cough may just have a cough that lasts for several weeks.
The health department says there are three steps to help stop the spread of whooping cough: vaccination, avoiding vulnerable groups when you have cold symptoms, and if diagnosed with whooping cough, staying home for five days after antibiotic treatment has started.”
Health officials say vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of whooping cough. The DTap vaccine, which includes vaccine for tetanus and diphtheria, is recommended for young children.
Adults age 19 and older can receive a free Tdap vaccine by appointment at the Health Department’s four county health centers. Children age 18 and under can get the Tdap or DTap vaccine for free through the Vaccines For Children program, provided that they have a Medical card, KCHIP, no health insurance or health insurance that doesn’t cover the vaccine. Most doctors’ offices and many pharmacies offer the vaccine as well. Families of infants born at St. Elizabeth also can get the vaccine after delivery through the hospital.
The health department is also working with local schools affected by the outbreak to provide immunization clinics for students, staff and family members.
The health department recommends if you live with someone who has been diagnosed with whooping cough, or have had prolonged close contact, contact your health care provider as well.
Anyone diagnosed with whooping cough should stay home from school or work until they have been taking antibiotics for five days, health officials recommend.