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The Lincoln Trail District Health Department coverage area so far has not seen an uptick in the number of cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, though Kentucky and the United States as a whole have seen a large increase in reported cases.
Health department officials have seen a normal amount of cases in 2012, but Kentucky has had approximately 179 cases as of Monday, a two- to three-fold increase from the number of 2011 cases, said Wendy Keown, public information officer at the health department.
The number of cases in the U.S. already has doubled from the previous year. There were 13,946 cases as of June 28, and only 7,080 for all of 2011, Keown said.
There have been 12 cases reported to the health department, including four in Hardin County, which is not an abnormal amount, she said. So far the cases have not been linked to one another.
Pertussis typically starts with symptoms similar to a cold, but severe coughing will start after a week or two, according to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It especially is dangerous for infants under the age of 1, more than half of whom need to be hospitalized.
Children are vaccinated several times for pertussis, at the ages of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years. Another booster is recommended between the ages of 10 and 13, and adults also are encouraged to receive a booster.
Keown said it isn’t clear why there has been such an increase in the number of people with the disease this year.
Keown said the health department will declare an outbreak when the number of cases becomes larger than expected, and if clusters of cases begin to form.
Beyond the vaccinations, she said the typical illness prevention methods are recommended, such as washing hands and especially covering a cough, because pertussis is spread through the air. Because the symptoms start out similar to a cold’s, patients often don’t see a physician until a cough develops, she said. If a person has a cough that persists, Keown urges they see a doctor.
The cough can be so hard sufferers will turn blue or vomit. They can sometimes lose all air in their lungs, causing a “whooping” sound when they inhale, from which the common name of the disease originated. Not everyone with pertussis will have a “whooping” sound to their cough, however. Patients with pertussis are contagious from the beginning of their symptoms until about two weeks after coughing starts.
A nasal swab is used to determine if the illness is pertussis, and patients are given antibiotics to treat it. After five days of antibiotics, sufferers are fine to return to work or school, Keown said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.