Six cases in Jefferson County

The Jefferson County Public Health Department has confirmed six cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, since May 9. Most are isolated cases with no single source identified, according to County Health Director Tom Machala.

This emphasizes that pertussis is circulating in the Jefferson County community. Pertussis vaccination is intended to protect those most vulnerable to the illness. Infants under 6 months of age are not able to have protective immunity from vaccination themselves and are at the highest risk for serious complications from pertussis.

Anyone who may be around an infant is encouraged to update vaccines. At this point, no Jefferson County infants have been identified as ill, he said.

Whooping cough starts like a common cold, with runny nose, sneezing, mild cough, and fever. In infants and children, the disease may progress to include severe coughing. The coughing is violent and persistent until all of the air has been forced from the lungs; the inhale following then has a loud “whooping” sound.

In older children, teens, and adults, the symptoms may not be so bad, mimicking a cold or allergies, with an irritating cough that lingers more than seven days.

Vaccination for pertussis is recommended for children and adults who have not been vaccinated. The pertussis vaccine is combined with vaccines for tetanus and diphtheria, DTaP for children and Tdap for teens and adults. Over 90 percent of children in school in Jefferson County are up to date with their DTaP or Tdap vaccines.

Many adults, however, have not had the necessary booster vaccine to keep up their immunity. Vaccine effectiveness, about 80 percent, and immunity that fades over time are a combination that results in outbreaks like the local one, he said.

Most of the six Jefferson County cases were vaccinated against pertussis and are not linked to each other, so the disease is considered to be widespread in the county. Four of the cases were in elementary-aged children, one high school age and one adult.

Pertussis vaccine is widely available. Adults and children age 11 and up can be vaccinated at their local pharmacy. Both adults and children can be vaccinated at their doctor’s office or the health department. Discounted vaccine is available at Jefferson County Public Health Department for those who do not have insurance.

If you believe you or a family member has pertussis, call your doctor to discuss symptoms or for testing. For more information, call registered nurse Sarah Decker at the Jefferson County Public Health Department at 541-475-4456.

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