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Be alert: Cases of whooping cough (pertussis) are increasing in NKY; children should be vaccinated

Northern Kentucky is experiencing an increase in reported cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis. The majority of recent cases have been seen in school-aged youth, but it can affect individuals of any age.

During 2019, there were 14 confirmed cases in Northern Kentucky.

At first, whooping cough may appear to be a common cold, with symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within a couple of weeks, however, a persistent cough develops, occurring in explosive bursts, and sometimes ending with a high-pitched “whoop” and vomiting. The illness can last for four to six weeks. Whooping cough is most concerning for infants under age 1, who are at increased risk of severe illness and even death.

According to Lynne Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department, “Vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of whooping cough. Vaccination can not only protect you, but also those around you that may be vulnerable to illness, particularly infants who are not yet old enough to be vaccinated.” 

Parents of young children should make sure that their child has been vaccinated with DTaP, which includes protection against tetanus and diphtheria as well. It is usually given in five doses between two months and seven years of age. Pregnant women and anyone who is going to be around infants should get vaccinated to protect the infant. Protection does fade over time, so ask your health care provider if you need a booster vaccine. Medicaid, Medicare and most private health insurance providers cover the vaccine as a preventative service.

The Health Department also offers vaccines by appointment at its four-county health centers. For contact information, go to this website.
Individuals who have a cough lasting more than two weeks and/or one that progressively gets worse are advised to contact their health care provider for evaluation. They should avoid contact with others, especially infants, young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. 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.
For more information on whooping cough, click here.

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