PARKERSBURG - With the threat of whooping cough growing across the country, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is urging people of all ages to get vaccinations.
"We have not had any cases locally this year, but we had several last year and are always trying to get the word out about how important it is to get a Pertussis vaccination," said Patrick Burke, regional epidemiologist with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov), between Jan. 1 and Aug. 11, 46 states and Washington, D.C., reported increases in the disease compared with the same time period in 2011. Many of these states saw as high as a 67.5 percent increase (Wisconsin).
"Just because it isn't a problem here right now, it could easily become one," Burke said. "It is easily spread just like the common cold, which makes the immunization so important."
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease known for uncontrollable, violent coughing that can often make it difficult for the sufferer to breathe, according to the CDC. The "whooping" sound comes from someone with the disease as they take deep breaths.
The illness, which most commonly affects infants and young children, is contracted in the same manner as the common cold and can be fatal, especially in babies under 1-year-old.
Burke said the illness has three stages with the first including symptoms similar to the common cold fever, coughing and sneezing; this moves on to an intense cough that can include gagging and vomiting before recovery begins.
"Because it spreads through bacteria in the nose, mouth and throat and through coughing and sneezing, it is very important for children to get their immunizations on time with the recommendations," he said.
Children should get five doses of Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Vaccines (DTaP), one dose at each of the following ages: 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months and 4-6 years.
Td is a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine given to adolescents and adults as a booster shot every 10 years, or after an exposure to tetanus under some circumstances. Tdap is similar to Td but also containing protection against pertussis. Adolescents 11-18 years of age (preferably at age 11-12 years) and adults 19 through 64 years of age should receive a single dose of Tdap. For adults 65 and older who have close contact with an infant and have not previously received Tdap, one dose should be received, according to the CDC.
"While people who have been immunized can contract Pertussis, the illness is much less severe in immunized children," Burke said. "Before there was a vaccination, it was called the 100 days cough because it took so long to get over."