Dec 022004
Authors: James Baetke


How to prevent whooping cough:

*Make sure young children are immunized from pertussis

*Do not expose others if you are contagious with pertussis. Cough into a tissue or sleeve when others are present

*Consult a physician if you believe you have whooping cough so antibiotics can be prescribed to prevent the spreading of the virus

Source: Larimer County Department of Health and Environment

Cases of whooping cough are on the rise in Larimer County, the state of Colorado and the nation.

Colorado cases have more than doubled from last year and Larimer County is seeing what they call "unusually high" cases of pertussis, or whooping cough. To date, more than 80 cases have been recorded this year, compared to last year's eight cases, according to the Larimer Department of Health and Environment.

In Colorado there are more than 860 confirmed cases, the highest number in about 50 years, based on statistics compiled by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

Most of the Larimer County cases have occurred in young people between the ages of 10 to 19, but the infection can affect all age groups. Many recent cases have popped up in the Poudre School District this year and more recent infections have been noted at Loveland High School within the Thompson School District.

"We are seeing at least one case every two to three days," said Ann Burkett, health services coordinator for the Poudre School District.

The health care community is unclear about why the numbers are so high, but the county health department believes more accurate tests have helped to confirm infection, as well as better follow-up cases and a raised awareness of whooping cough in the medical community may be helping yield such high numbers.

Children and adults have both been affected within the school district, Burkett said. She insisted that adults are not immune from the so-called 100-day cough.

Very young children and infants are also at risk and if infected can suffer from severe complications, especially if the children have not had three doses of the pertussis vaccine.

"It is important to keep people who are coughing away from young infants whenever possible," said Adrienne LeBailly, director for the county health department.

Adults can still be susceptible to the bacterial infection since a pertussis vaccine is not licensed in the United States for anyone after their seventh birthday.

Burkett said a booster shot for whooping cough might soon be a reality since the nation is seeing some of the highest numbers since 1940. Seeing young adolescents and adults contracting whooping cough suggests that those infected are having a waning immunity; their immunization shots are wearing off.

Hartshorn Health Services staff and Infection Control Physician Jane Higgins said CSU has seen no cases this year and has not had any documented for the last few years.

"We diagnose (pertussis) rarely, but there is a lot of pertussis that goes undiagnosed," Higgins said.

Higgins stressed that it is important for citizens to be aware of their health so they can combat the rise in whooping cough. Always keep hands washed, do not cough or sneeze on anyone help prevent contraction.

Signs of infection occur seven to 14 days after exposure and begin with cold-like symptoms. Coughing becomes progressively worse and eventually a coughing fit occurs. Following the fits, vomiting, facial discoloration, breathlessness and a whooping sound while coughing may all occur.

The cough that ends with a "whoop" sound is how pertussis got its nickname, but Higgins said adults don't often experience the "whoop," but may more commonly experience vomiting.

LeBailly said it is crucial to get tested if someone suspects they may have contracted whooping cough.

Burkett said students who live with their families or have young children themselves should learn to recognize the symptoms of whooping cough.

"First and foremost, if you are sick stay home," Burkett said, who added that many people do not know they have whooping cough until it is too late and have already spread the virus to others.


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