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District Health Department No. 4 (DHD4) is investigating an outbreak of pertussis – better known as whooping cough – in Presque Isle County.
Currently, the department reported, there are six confirmed cases all under the age of 4 years. DHD4 recommends all household contacts and close contacts of cases receive prophylactic antibiotics regardless of immunization status. Even if you aren’t concerned about the threat of pertussis for yourself, you can unknowingly spread the illness to others, especially infants and young children, to whom it may be fatal.
Pertussis is a common disease in the United States that is considered preventable through vaccination, the department said. Pertussis can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease starts like the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing and sometimes a mild cough or fever. After 1-2 weeks, severe coughing can begin.
Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks. Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs, and you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. In infants, the cough can be minimal or nonexistent. Instead, they may have life-threatening pauses in breathing.
“The best way to protect young infants is to ensure everyone around them is vaccinated,” Dr. Joshua Meyerson, DHD4 Medical Director, emphasized, adding that routine handwashing is also helpful. “Make sure all adults coming near an infant have been immunized with Tdap, a vaccine to prevent pertussis. Make sure young children receive all five recommended doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine between the ages of 2 months and 6 years.”
All adolescents and adults should receive a booster dose of pertussis vaccine, Tdap, starting at age 11. Booster shots for pertussis are critical because, unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, neither the pertussis disease nor vaccine confers lifelong immunity. The best way to prevent pertussis cases and outbreaks is to have the highest possible level of immunization in the community. Antibiotics, given early in the disease or to close contacts, can also help decrease the spread of pertussis.
You can help prevent the spread of whooping cough by taking the following precautions:
- Washing hands frequently
- Covering nose/mouth when coughing
- Staying home from work/school when sick, even if just a cough
- Contact your health care provider if you have a prolonged or severe cough
- Ask your health care provider about a pertussis booster
DHD4 offers Tdap and DTaP vaccines through its clinics in Alpena, Atlanta, Cheboygan and Rogers City. Medicare, Medicaid and many forms of private health insurance are accepted. Those without health insurance coverage may qualify for reduced rates for these recommended vaccines. For more information, or to schedule appointments for yourself and your family, call the Health Department at 1-800-221-0294.
For additional information on pertussis, visit the CDC Pertussis webpage at http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis, or the MDHHS Pertussis webpage at https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/adult-child-serv/childrenfamilies/immunization/public/whooping-cough-pertussis-in-michigan.