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Suffolk Health Officials Alert Public of Rise in Pertussis Cases

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said today that Suffolk County Department of Health Services is tracking a growing number of pertussis cases. The vast majority of the 108 currently reported cases are school-aged children (and their parents) who attend school districts throughout the region. Most of the individuals who have contracted the infection are vaccinated, therefore their symptoms are milder than would be expected in unvaccinated persons. The county is not aware of any hospitalizations due to this pertussis outbreak.

"With so many respiratory illnesses currently circulating, some for which there are no treatment, we wanted to make sure that parents know that pertussis, also called whooping cough, can be treated with antibiotics if  diagnosed early," said Dr. Pigott. "Whooping cough can be very serious for infants too young to be vaccinated, which is why we are alerting both medical providers and the public that this illness is circulating." 

Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, is a respiratory tract infection caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria. Pertussis is highly contagious, spreading through the air when infected people cough or sneeze. The most common symptoms are cough, nasal congestion and fever. Cough can worsen and last several weeks. Infants, especially unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated, are the most likely to have severe disease or have complications such as pauses in breathing, pneumonia, convulsions, disease affecting the brain, or death. 

Most people recover slowly with antibiotics. However, the best method to prevent or lessen the severity of disease is through vaccination. Routine vaccination against pertussis is recommended for all children and adults. The DTaP vaccine for children and TDaP vaccine for adults protect against pertussis as well as two other serious infections, tetanus and diphtheria. TDaP vaccination is also recommended for pregnant women during every pregnancy to protect their babies from whooping cough in the first few months of life. 

Anyone who has symptoms consistent with pertussis should stay home and contact a health care provider for evaluation and testing. Early treatment with antibiotics is important for reducing the severity of symptoms, especially in infants. People diagnosed with pertussis should stay home from work or school until they have completed five days of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading pertussis to others.  

Certain persons should receive preventive antibiotics if they have been in contact with someone who is ill with pertussis, to help prevent them from getting sick. Such persons include those at risk for severe illness, including people with weakened immune systems, infants, and women in their third trimester of pregnancy. Persons who live with someone diagnosed with pertussis/ whooping cough should also receive preventive antibiotics.   

The CDC recommends good hygiene to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses.  

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. 
  • Put used tissue in the waste basket. 
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands, if you don’t have a tissue. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available. 

 For further information please refer to: CDC: Pertussis  

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Categories: Health


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