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updated: 9/28/2012 9:04 PM

Lake County pertussis cases surpass last year's total

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Lake County Health Department

The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center reports that the number of pertussis cases in Lake County thus far this year (178) have already surpassed last year's total for the full year (175). This is the highest number of cases reported since 1959. The Health Department is encouraging adolescents and adults to receive the Tdap booster for additional protection against this illness.

"To address this outbreak, everyone 11 years of age and older should receive the Tdap booster," said Irene Pierce, the Health Department's Executive Director. "While this illness was on the decline just a few years ago, it is now a major reportable disease in Lake County. And not only Lake County is affected. Illinois currently has the fifth highest number of pertussis cases nationwide."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is currently experiencing what may turn out to be the largest outbreak of reported pertussis. This outbreak is accompanied by complications and death in unimmunized young infants.

Although most children are vaccinated against pertussis (also known as whooping cough) before entering kindergarten, a booster dose is recommended since protection from the pre-school vaccine decreases over time. The vaccine was modified in the 1990s to reduce side effects, and the new version is possibly wearing off faster than expected. According to the latest studies, protection against pertussis waned during the five years after the fifth dose of DTaP.

The State of Illinois now requires children entering sixth and ninth grades to show proof of having a Tdap booster in order to attend school. Unless a medical or religious exemption has been approved, or a child has an appointment to get the Tdap vaccine during the school year, a child will be subject to exclusion from school on or before October 15.

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing. It does not typically cause severe illness in healthy immunized students. Pertussis can be transmitted from healthy students to infants and individuals with chronic illnesses, for whom pertussis can be life threatening.

Health officials urge those who have had a long-lasting, severe cough, that tends to be worse at night and which sounds different than a typical upper respiratory cough, to consult their physicians. Over-the-counter medicines are ineffective in treating pertussis.

Symptoms usually appear five to 10 days after exposure, but can take as long as 21 days. The first symptoms are similar to those of a common cold accompanied by coughing. The cough gradually becomes severe and often progresses to coughing spasms, which can end in vomiting or the characteristic, high-pitched "whoop." The cough becomes dry and irritating, and sounds different from a typical upper respiratory infection cough. The coughing is usually worse at night, and there is an absence of fever. Coughing may last as long as 10 weeks. Recovery is gradual, and coughing episodes can recur with subsequent respiratory infections or irritations for months after the onset of the disease. If this illness is confirmed by a medical provider, stay home from work or school during the first five days of treatment. Early treatment may alleviate the severity of these symptoms and prevent spread to high risk individuals such as babies or pregnant women.

For additional information, contact the Health Department's Communicable Disease Program at: (847) 377-8130 or visit: