In all last year, between May and September, the Sampson County Health Department reported nearly 40 cases of the common respiratory disease, Pertussis. With the increased number of cases last year, health officials are encouraging people of all ages to be immunized with the vaccine.
According to Maegan Myers, nurse with the health department, there were 40 cases reported last year, and so far, the health department has only seen two cases. Still, she warns it’s important for citizens to be prepared and take the proper precautions to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Myers said Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can spread from person to person, usually by coughing or sneezing while in very close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.
While the symptoms of pertussis are often less severe in adolescents and adults, Myers said it can be detrimental to infants.
“These symptoms include terrible coughing spasms that can cause you to gag or even vomit,” Myers said. “It also causes shortness of breath, fever, and a ‘whoop’ sound when breathing in. While the whooping sound of the cough is most often associated the disease, people that had the vaccine years ago may have a much milder cough that does not include the sound.”
Health care officials issued a warning last July, stating that Sampson, along with other counties, had experienced a rise in the number of whooping cough cases, prompting those who thought they may be experiencing symptoms to seek medical attention as soon as possible. According to Myers, all 40 cases reported last year were properly treated, as the two cases reported this year have been. Health Director Wanda Robinson stated last year that the number of cases for Sampson County was unusually high.
Common early symptoms, which can last 1 to 2 weeks, include:
• Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)
• Mild, occasional cough
• Apnea — a pause in breathing (particularly in infants)
As the disease worsens, traditional symptoms of Pertussis appear and include:
• Paroxysms (fits) of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop”
•Vomiting (throwing up), usually during or immediately after a coughing fit
• Exhaustion (very tired) after coughing fits
Officials say that Pertussis can be prevented by a vaccine. In fact, Myers said, children under the age of seven receive DTaP, while the booster Tdap is given to older children, adolescents and adults.
“Everyone should receive protection from pertussis especially, if you are around babies under 12 months of age, especially newborns,” Myers noted. “The pertussis vaccine, along with other immunizations, is required before children enter kindergarten and 7th grade. Anyone that is in close contact with infants less than one year old are highly encouraged to get a Tdap to protect the baby.”
With the beginning of the school year approaching, Myers said it’s a good time for families to check with their health care providers for immunizations.
“Vaccines have saved millions of lives and prevented millions of cases of disease,” Myers said. “Thanks to immunizations, like DTap and Tdap, many of these diseases are not as common now as they were in the past. However, these diseases are still present and can cause many health problems.”
To make an immunization appointment, please call the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, extension 4001, 4960 or 4220 or your local health care provider. For more information on these and other vaccines, please call 910-592-1131, extension. 4247.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.