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Reno County Dealing With Whooping Cough Outbreak

Sanofi Pasteur, flickr Creative Commons

Health officials in Reno County are trying to bring an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, under control. Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson has details.

The outbreak began in mid-May with three cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease. Now there are 23 reported cases, according to the Reno County Health Department, in Hutchinson. As of June 2, 134 cases of pertussis had been reported in Kansas this year.

Pertussis causes rapid and violent coughing, and the struggle to inhale while coughing sometimes causes a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects babies and young children, and can be fatal—especially during the first year of life.

The bacteria responsible for the disease are spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Symptoms appear one to three weeks after exposure.

The best defense against pertussis is vaccination. Protection from the childhood vaccination tends to wane over time, but a booster shot is available. Getting the booster shot can protect vulnerable babies, as well as the person being vaccinated.

Those who have been vaccinated may still catch pertussis, but the symptoms will probably be milder than in an unimmunized person. Health officials are asking anyone who’s been coughing for two weeks without explanation to see a doctor.

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

Original Associated Press story published June 8, 2015:

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Reno County health officials are dealing with a whooping cough outbreak that includes 23 suspected cases of the illness.

The Hutchinson News reports health officials are asking sick people to stay home and for health providers to relay information on suspected cases of whooping cough, which is characterized by intense coughing, fever and runny nose.

The health department says the county reported 3 suspected cases in mid-May, 18 in early June and 23 as of Monday.

Ivonne Rivera-Newberry, the department's assistant director of clinical services, says people may not be taking the illness as seriously as they should. Whooping cough can be especially difficult for infants, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems.

She says vaccination rates overall are down and may be playing into the recent outbreak.