Take Steps to Protect from Pertussis



TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Whooping cough is making a comeback.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the state has confirmed 56 cases already this year. It recorded 52 in all of 2011.

Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Jo-Ann Harris with Stormont-Vail HealthCare says whooping cough, formally known as pertussis, is a persistent cough, marked by a sort of "whooping" sound as the sufferer breaths in. It can cause a person to cough until they vomit, turn blue or even stop breathing.

Harris says anyone can get pertussis, but infants, too young to be fully vaccinated, will suffer the worst symptoms. Harris says they commonly will get it from young adults.

That's why the Centers for Disease Control is getting aggressive in urging immunization. Infants receive doses at 2, 4 and 6 months, and the CDC says 95 percent of them do get their vaccination doses. However, the CDC also recommends getting a TdaP booster around age 11 or 12, and once over the age of 18. Only eight percent of adults are doing so.

Harris says boosting that number, especially among parents, grandparents and babysitters, is key in keeping babies healthy. She says the people surrounding the infants can form a "cocoon" and protect the infant by getting vaccinated so they don't get the illness.

Another new target for the CDC is pregnant women after 20 weeks gestation. By getting a TdaP booster then, they can pass the antibody on to their baby, offering protection until the child is old enough to get their immunizations.

Early treatment can lessen not only the severity of symptoms, but also limit spreading. A persistent cough in children warrants a call to the doctor and adults with a chronic cough lasting two to three weeks also should get checked.

Harris says she's seen at least one whooping cough case in Topeka. A parent also tells 13 News that her child and several others in Nemaha County recently battled the illness.

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