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Whooping Cough spreading in San Juan County - Vaccinations urged

The whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak continues San Juan County with  27 probable and confirmed cases among residents. Immediate vaccination is highly recommended for children and adults. The disease gets its common name from the whooping sound it makes, shown on this YouTube video.

Contact health care providers or the county Health and Community Services Department at 378-4474 to arrange for the vaccination and/or for more information.

Despite its reputation as a childhood disease, pertussis infects people of all ages. In 2005, two-thirds of all diagnosed pertussis cases were among adolescents and adults. Studies have shown that teens and adults tend to have the disease in its milder form and rarely "whoop" after a coughing spell; however adults can go on to develop pneumonia, broken ribs, and fainting from the severe coughing spells. Even people with mild symptoms can infect others.

Pertussis, caused by a bacterium called Bordetella Pertussis is found in the mouth, nose and throat. It is spread through droplets from the mouth and nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Classic pertussis usually starts with cold symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and cough).

After about two weeks, the coughing becomes more and more severe. This stage can last for weeks and even months. It's aptly nicknamed the 100-day cough.

Common signs of a pertussis episode include:

  • Severe coughing spells, sometimes followed by what sounds like a "whoop" as the patient gasps for breath (adults and adolescents rarely whoop)
  • A cough that brings up a mucus so thick that infants and children can turn blue from lack of oxygen
  • Patients may have 15-24 coughing attacks a day. After an episode, the patient often vomits and feels very tired. Attacks at night lead to sleep deprivation.
  • Between episodes, there may be no signs of illness.

The most effective way to prevent pertussis among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. It is also important to keep infants and other people at high risk for pertussis complications away from infected people.

With the holidays coming, County public health officials say it is important not to postpone vaccinations. The close contact between several family generations indoors during the holidays increases the risk of transmission of pertussis.

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