There have been nearly two dozen confirmed cases of whooping cough in Sampson County, prompting continued warnings of symptoms and steps to heed in controlling the highly contagious respiratory disease.
“We currently have 21 cases as of this morning with all age groups involved, from young children to adults,” Kathie Johnson, director of Nursing with the Sampson County Health Department, said Monday. “None of the cases have been severe as of today.”
“Severe would be considered hospitalization for complications per (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and State (Communicable Disease) Branch guidelines,” she explained.
Sampson along with other counties has experienced a rise in the number of whooping cough cases, and health officials issued a warning late last month to those who think they may have symptoms to see a medical provider as quickly as possible.
Whooping cough, or Pertussis, can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms, as maybe a mild cough. fever, runny nose and exhaustion. After one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, Pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks.
As of July 28, Sampson’s total was at nine. Health Director Wanda Robinson called that number “unusually high for Sampson.” Just two weeks later, that figure has more than doubled to 21, which is seven times the number of Pertussis cases seen last year.
“There is reporting of whooping cough across the state by multiple counties at this time. There is usually an ebb and flow with it across the state. We will have periods of increased disease, then it wanes for a few years, then returns. So we are once again in a period of increased cases,” said Johnson. “We had three cases last year.”
Health officials have already released a wealth of information to the public, noting their close cooperation with local medical providers to identify cases and provide treatment for the cases and their contacts.
That protocol remains intact, said Johnson, who cited previously-released information, including treatment for close contacts and Tdap vaccine.
“There is an immediacy to this because we want anyone who starts noticing any of the symptoms to report them to their provider,” Health director Wanda Robinson said previously. “It is our goal to get people into care before it begins to spread.”
Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. The “whoop” is often not there and the infection is generally milder (less severe) in teens and adults, especially those who have been vaccinated.
Because Pertussis in its early stages appears to be nothing more than the common cold, it is often not suspected or diagnosed until the more severe symptoms appear. Infected people are most contagious up to about two weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics can shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.
The Sampson County Health Department continues to monitor the situation and contacting providers and residents as needed.
To help control the spread of Pertussis, the Health Department strongly encourages the following:
• Contact your medical provider if you suspect you or someone in your home may have Pertussis.
• Make sure your children’s immunizations are up to date, especially infants, toddlers and young children.
• If you are pregnant, get your Tdap Vaccine during your 27th-36th week of pregnancy to help provide antibodies that will protect your new baby.
• If you are in frequent contact with an infant, young child or a person with a compromised immune system, get a Tdap vaccination. This is especially true of parents, siblings, grandparents, other family members and caregivers of newborns and young infants.
• If you are an adult and have never had a Tdap vaccine booster, you need at least one dose.
• If you have a compromised immune system, talk with your medical provider about the importance of immunizations, especially the Tdap vaccine.
For more information about Pertussis, contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, ext. 4960 or 4001.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.