FLORENCE, AZ – So far for this calendar year, Pinal County health officials have investigated 66 reports of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. The infection is on the rise nationwide, prompting new guidance from state and federal health officials.
For all of 2010, Pinal County investigated 48 reports of pertussis. In 2009, there were just 12 reports countywide. Highly contagious, pertussis is a serious illness for children causing chronic coughing that leads some to gasp for air with a ‘whooping’ sound, hence the name ‘whooping cough.’
“Adults get a milder form of infection than young children. Adults typically have a lingering, persistent cough that is often mistaken for a common cold or flu,” said Pinal County’s Epidemiologist Graham Briggs. “Because they don’t realize that they have a highly contagious disease, they can pass it to young family members or other children they encounter. Pertussis can be fatal, particularly in infants.”
One of the common immunizations for children is the TDaP (also DTaP) injection, which gets its name from protecting against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Over time the protection against pertussis starts to diminish. Health experts recommend that all adults in contact with young children receive the booster shot.
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors recently approved making the booster shot available to adults at Pinal County’s Public Health Clinics. The charge for the adult booster shot is $40. Compared with the cost of medication, possible hospitalization and lost days at work, the fee is a small price to pay to protect public health and young family members.
Symptoms begin like a cold with coughing and a runny nose. Over time, severe coughing spasms develop that can last for months. Some patients with pertussis experience vomiting after violent coughing spasms.
Briggs and his counterparts in Pinal County’s Public Health District track infectious disease, making contact with each person exposed to the infected party to contain the spread. One case of pertussis can result in numerous phone calls and follow ups to determine if exposed individuals develop symptoms of disease. Health care providers are required to notify Pinal County Public Health when pertussis, measles, mumps, meningitis and other diseases are suspected.
“A pertussis case in a school or daycare environment can be especially troubling,” Briggs said. “Arizona’s Administrative Code mandates that a child with pertussis be excluded from school for 21 days following the onset of the cough or for five days after starting antibiotic treatment.” (AAC R9-6-356)
Statewide data shows that the number of pertussis reports is almost twice the number investigated last year – 454 versus 233. The last major statewide pertussis outbreak was in 2005 when nearly 1,000 were reported.
Resources for more information:
Arizona Department of Health Services
Statistics on Infectious Disease http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oids/data/current.htm
Pertussis Information http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oids/epi/disease/pert/index.htm
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an excellent resource for additional information about pertussis and its complications. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/