As whooping cough spreads, Douglas County urges public to be up-to-date on vaccinations

    (File/SBG image)

    ROSEBURG, Ore. -- As a pertussis (also known as whooping cough) outbreak continues to spread in Lane County, Douglas County public health officials are urging everyone to make sure their pertussis vaccinations are up-to-date.

    In Douglas County, there has been 2 confirmed pediatric cases, including one infant, and 8 presumed adult cases.

    “We encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, Douglas County Health Officer, “especially pregnant women in their third trimester, as doing so can pass antibodies to your baby before birth and give them some short-term protection”.

    Pertussis is a serious and highly contagious infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis and is one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, the health department says. Initial symptoms in older children and adults are similar to those of a cold, and commonly include a runny nose, sneezing and a severe cough.

    Over the course of a few days, the cough will usually worsen and can be followed by spasms and occasionally vomiting. Infants commonly demonstrate more severe symptoms, which may include gagging, gasping, and a whooping sound when coughing

    The duration of the infection can be up to two weeks with a debilitating cough for up to 90 days. Individuals exhibiting these symptoms are encouraged to refrain from contact with children, stay home from work or school for up to 21 days and seek medical attention. If a doctor prescribes antibiotics, this exclusion from work and school can be reduced to as little as 5 days.

    Pertussis is particularly dangerous for children younger than 1 year of age. Most deaths occur in unvaccinated children or in children too young to be vaccinated who contract the disease from a family member, according to Douglas County public Health. These family members may be unvaccinated or unaware that immunity from initial childhood vaccinations wanes after 5-10 years and thus have not received their booster, officials say.

    "As a result, it is critical that infants begin the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) immunization series on schedule and all family members receive the Tdap booster (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)," Douglas County Public Health says. "The first three shots for infants are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. The fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given before a child enters school, at 4-6 years of age. DTaP and Tdap are covered by most health insurance plans and are readily available through many facilities including pharmacies. Individuals interested in receiving the vaccine or booster should contact their preferred health care provider."

    Since the bacteria are typically spread by coughing or sneezing, it is also important that everyone practices proper respiratory hygiene. This includes covering your cough or sneeze, properly disposing of used tissue and frequently washing hands, even if you do not display symptoms.

    For additional information on Pertussis, please visit:

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