Published Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Health: Cases of whooping cough on the rise in our region

From Special Reports

District 4 Public Health, which encompasses Coweta and surrounding counties, has continued to see an increase in pertussis cases.

This increase is a national trend, and public health officials would like residents to know pertussis can be prevented.

Pertussis, a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough, is a contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis and is spread from person to person.

People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.

The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin, which may cause vomiting. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks. In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there. Infants may have a symptom known as “apnea.” Apnea is a pause in the child’s breathing pattern. Pertussis is most dangerous for babies. More than half of infants younger than 1 year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized.

Because pertussis in its early stages appears to be nothing more than the common cold, it is often not suspected or diagnosed until the more severe symptoms appear. Coughing fits generally become more common and severe as the illness continues, and can occur more often at night.

The illness can be milder (less severe) and the typical “whoop” absent in children, teens, and adults who have been vaccinated with a pertussis vaccine.

The best way to prevent pertussis among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. Today there is a booster for preteens, teens and adults that contains protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap). It is a recommended that adults talk to a healthcare provider about what is best for their specific situation.

Getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants. Vaccine should be administered at least two weeks before coming into close contact with an infant. Infants do not receive their first vaccine to protect against Pertussis until 2 months of age.

For more information on Pertussis, visit or contact your local health department.

The Coweta County Health Department may be reached at 770-254-7400. Appointments are needed for vaccinations. The health department is located on Hospital Road in Newnan.

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