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Kimberly Link, ScM
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April 18, 2014

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Idaho sees spike in cases in 2014

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) in Idaho | 2014
The state of Idaho, and specifically Health District 4, which encompasses Ada, Boise, Valley and Elmore counties is experiencing a spike in the number of pertussis cases in 2014. While it is not uncommon to see an increase about every  five years, it is a reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated – both children and adults.

Back in 2013, the statewide pertussis incidence rate was approximately double what the country as a whole was experiencing. It is anticipated that Idaho is headed down a similar path for 2014.

Pertussis in the News

What is Pertussis?
A highly contagious respiratory disease caused by bacteria found in the nose and throat.

What are the symptoms of Pertussis?
It usually begins with cold-like symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, a mild, occasional cough and low-grade fever. Then the cough becomes more severe. Often a person has attacks or spasms of coughing. The coughing may cause a person to vomit, cough up mucous, or lose his/her breath. Coughing may continue for weeks or months. On occasion, a child may make a crowing sound (whoop) when she/he draws a breath after severely coughing. Teens and adults usually have milder disease.

What are the complications of Pertussis?
Serious complications are most common among infants and young children. They may include pneumonia, swelling of the brain and sometimes death. Most deaths occur among unvaccinated children or children too young to be vaccinated.

How is Pertussis spread?
Pertussis bacteria are spread from person-to-person through the air by coughing or sneezing, sharing food, sharing eating utensils, sharing drinks, or kissing.

Who can get Pertussis?
People of all ages can get pertussis. Neither previous infection nor vaccination provides lifelong immunity. Pertussis can be especially dangerous for young babies, who are unable to be vaccinated against the bacteria until two months old. Nearly half of all infants who get whooping cough are hospitalized. Pregnant women and those who will be in close proximity to infants are encouraged to get their whooping cough vaccine. Pregnant women will pass some protection on to their baby.

How soon after infection do symptoms occur?
Usually 7 to 10 days, with a range of 5 to 21 days.

How can we prevent the spread of Pertussis?

  • Infected persons who are treated may return to day care, work, or school after completing 5 days of appropriate antibiotic treatment. It is very important that they take the entire antibiotic that has been prescribed.
  • Infected persons who are not treated should stay home for 3 weeks after their coughing started.
  • Get vaccinated regardless of age, previous infection or past immunization.

What should people do after they have been exposed to Pertussis?

  • Anyone that has cold-like symptoms or a cough should be promptly examined and tested by a physician. The physician should be told that the sick person has had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with pertussis.
  • Household and close contacts who aren’t sick should take an effective antibiotic prescribed by a physician.
  • Make sure that your Pertussis vaccinations are up-to-date.

What can be done to prevent Pertussis?

  • Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent becoming ill. Make sure you and your children are appropriately immunized.*
  • When you cough or sneeze, do it into your sleeve at the bend of your arm.
  • Use disposable tissues.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

What about adult and adolescent booster doses?
Booster vaccines containing Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) have been approved for adolescents and adults from ages 10 to 64. Consult your pediatrician or family physician.

How is pertussis treated?
Antibiotics, usually erythromycin, azithromycin or clarithromycin are effective in treating pertussis.

Can I get a pertussis vaccine at CDHD or my local health department?
Most health departments provide vaccines to the public – some at a reduced rate. Many can also bill insurance, including Medicaid. CDHD serves Ada, Boise, Valley and Elmore counties and provides vaccines at its Boise, McCall and Mountain Home clinics to children ages 0-18.

To make an appointment for your child’s immunizations:

  • Ada County (Boise) | 208-327-7450
  • Elmore County (Mountain Home) | 208-587-4407
  • Valley County (McCall) | 208-630-8001

>>For additional information on pertussis and vaccination, visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website:

* Questions about immunization schedules and vaccine recommendations may be directed to your doctor or to the CDHD Shot Line at (208) 327-2229.

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