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This year, Lexington has seen 15 confirmed cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, according to the Lexington Fayette County Health Department. This number is just 10 less than the number of cases reported in the seven year period between 2005 -2011, during which a collective 25 instances of pertussis were documented .
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. It affects people of all ages but is most serious in infants. Adults and children are encouraged to receive a full series of vaccines and a booster shot to prevent the illness.
In its initial stages, pertussis symptoms are similar to a common cold: runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and coughing.
After 1-2 weeks, the cough gets worse, changing from a dry, hacking cough to bursts of uncontrollable, often violent, coughing. During a coughing episode, it might be temporarily impossible to take a breath because of the intensity and repetition of the coughs. When finally able to breathe, the person might take a sudden gasp of air, which can cause a “whooping” sound. Vomiting and exhaustion can often follow a coughing spell.
Anyone with these symptoms should visit a physician for diagnosis and treatment. Pertussis, which is spread through coughing and sneezing, is treated with antibiotics. If given during the very early stage of the illness, antibiotics may help shorten the illness.
Kevin Hall, health department communications officer, said the health department is encouraging parents to talk to their pediatricians and make sure their children are up to date on all vaccinations before heading back to school.
Fayette County schools are going to be more strict to ensure that each student is up to date on all vaccinations this year, Hall said. Individual schools may enforce this policy differently, but parents should not wait until the last minute to make sure their children are up-to-date, he added.
Click here for details about health requirements for Fayette County schools.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that kids who are 11-18 years old get a booster shot that includes a pertussis vaccine, preferably when they are 11-12 years old. More cases have been reported in teens and adults because their immunity has faded since their original vaccination.
It is recommended that adults also get a booster, and should discuss when and if the shot is needed with their physician, Hall said.
Pregnant women who have never had a dose of the pertussis vaccine should get one. Additionally, anyone who is around children should receive a booster, Hall added.
The health department recommends that patients call their primary care provider to get the pertussis vaccine. Those without a primary care provider may contact HealthFirst Bluegrass at 859-288-2307 for more information on getting a medical home. HealthFirst Bluegrass also provides immunizations for all pediatric patients even if they are not patients of HealthFirst and who want to keep their private pediatrician. Immunizations require a copy of the child’s immunization records for them to be seen.
Visit the CDC’s website for more information on pertussis.