Northwest NEWS

March 8, 1999

Local News

Public Health issues whooping cough alert

   So far this year, there have been 77 confirmed cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in King County with two in the Northshore and 44 in the Lake Washington school districts.

   The Public Health Department is warning of the potential for exposure to pertussis and is advising those with a coughing illness to see their doctor. Pertussis is a very contagious bacterial infection and is spread through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Infection is most severe in infants, who may develop serious complications requiring hospitalization.

   Pertussis starts with typical cold symptoms, including a runny nose followed by a cough illness. The classical or "whooping cough" form of pertussis may be readily recognized and is characterized by severe coughing spells followed by a "whoop" sound or vomiting. However, a majority of cases in immunized persons, older children, and adults may be characterized by a coughing illness without the classic features.

   Physicians and patients are advised to suspect pertussis when any cold or cough illness develops in a person exposed to known a pertussis case.

   The vaccination against pertussis is included in the DtaP/DTP vaccine. Children less than 7 years of age should get 5 doses of this vaccine at ages 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months, and at age 4-6 years. Even when vaccinated, there is still at least a 10-20% chance of infection if exposed. Vaccination is not permitted for persons over seven years of age. Immunity from pertussis vaccine fades over time.

   For more information on pertussis or to learn about where to get immunizations, call 206-296-4949 (recorded information) or visit the website at http://www.metrokc.gov/health (look under Communicable Disease and Services).