05-25-12: Health department offers tips to protect against pertussis
05-25-12: Health department offers tips to protect against pertussis

Washington State, including the Pierce County region, is experiencing an epidemic of pertussis, also known as whooping cough. More than 100 cases were reported in Pierce County in April, which is almost as many as were reported in all of 2011. About 70 percent of the reported cases so far this year have been in school-age children.

Pertussis is a bacterial illness that may begin with symptoms like the common cold: runny nose, scratchy throat, or cough. The cough then gets worse over one to two weeks. Fever is usually mild or absent. Most children and adults don’t get seriously ill. But for infants, pertussis can be life-threatening. Last year, two infants in Washington State died of pertussis.

The Pierce County Health Department offers the following suggestions to protect family members and the community from pertussis:

  • Make sure that everyone in your family, including teens, parents, and grandparents, are up-to-date on all of their immunizations. There is a one-time pertussis booster shot that all teens and adults can receive if they have not already done so.
  • If you have pertussis, stay out of work and school until you have finished five days of antibiotic medicine for pertussis.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently with soap and water, and stay home from work or school when sick.
  • Keep coughing people away from babies and pregnant women.
  • Infants, pregnant women in their third trimester, and people who have close contact with them should see a doctor for any new or worsening unexplained cough.
  • See a doctor for symptoms of pertussis. These include: 1) Coughing a week or more with uncontrollable fits of coughing, vomiting after coughing, or coughing until out of breath, and 2) Coughing two weeks or more.
  • See a doctor sooner for a cough if someone close to you has recently had pertussis.

If you have questions about pertussis or are concerned that you might have pertussis, please call your health care provider.

For more information visit the Pierce County Health Department pertussis Web page.