Valley County has had three confirmed cases of pertussis case (whooping cough) since Jan. 1. These cases make clear the importance of up to date vaccinations to decrease the spread of pertussis. The Valley County Health Department is working with health care providers, and other partners to identify close contacts and ensure that they are evaluated and treated as needed.
Pertussis is a contagious respiratory disease that in almost all cases can be effectively treated by a health care professional if identified early. Pertussis is spread through the air by coughing, and transmission is dependent on the closeness and length of contact. The disease is most serious in very young infants – especially those under the age of six months. Infants should be kept away from anyone diagnosed with pertussis or identified as a close contact of someone who has been diagnosed. Infants with any coughing illness should be promptly evaluated by their health care provider.
The Valley County Health Department’s number one priority is to contain the spread of the disease. The health department staff has been identifying close contacts of those who have been diagnosed with pertussis, and referring them to health care providers for proper follow up.
Pertussis begins with cold symptoms (runny nose, sneezing) and an irritating cough, which becomes much worse over one to two weeks. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (coughing fits) followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. Coughing fits may also be followed by vomiting or turning blue. There is generally no fever. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact their health care provider.
The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination. Pertussis vaccine is available for persons over the age of six weeks. It is included in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended routine childhood immunizations schedule. It is also very important for adults to receive the vaccination as well. No vaccine is 100 percent effective and no community is 100 percent vaccinated.
However, we do know that vaccines are the most effective tool we have to reduce transmission of pertussis and that even immunized children who get sick tend to have less severe symptoms than children who are not immunized.
Additional information can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis. Pertussis information from CDC can also be accessed on the Valley County Website at www.valleycountymt.gov and click on the health department link.