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The Springfield-Greene County Health Department says it’s seen a spike in cases of pertussis, also known as “whooping cough.” KSMU’s Jennifer Moore has this report.
Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial illness that attacks the respiratory system, resulting in a distinct “whooping” sound when the sick person gasps for air after coughing. For an example of what that sounds like, listen to this: it’s the sound of an infant with pertussis, as heard on the Mayo Clinic’s YouTube service.
[Sound: cough, 'whooping' sound inhale]
The department has confirmed four cases of pertussis in Greene County since January 15. Three of the four cases were infants. Kendra Williams oversees the epidemiologists at the health department in Springfield.
“To have four grouped together, in a month and a half time frame, to me—that raises a red flag,” Williams said.
She says when the health department gets a report of pertussis, it takes immediate action.
“As far as epidemiology, it’s like detective work, trying to ask enough questions and the right questions to determine where that source was –if they knew anybody who was ill prior to them becoming ill. And then we always recommend with pertussis, their close contacts of those cases get antibiotic treatment, so hopefully we can stop the spread,” Williams said.
She said the best prevention is vaccination. Two of the recent Greene County cases were individuals who had not been vaccinated. Health department officials say there’s an alarming lack of immunizations among infants.
“Certainly, we do have those core groups who are uncomfortable with vaccinating their children. You know, as parents, it’s hard for us—there’s not a book that tells us all the right answers of parenting. But as far as childhood vaccinations, they’re really a must. You’re not just protecting your child: you’re protecting those in your household, and most importantly, in my opinion, you’re protecting the community,” Williams said.
She said teenagers and adults need one booster in their adult lifetime to protect against pertussis.
Pertussis can be life-threatening; the highest risk for hospitalization and fatality is in infants and young children.It’s treated with an antibiotic.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.