Whooping cough hits on both sides of river

Friday, July 23, 2010 ~ Updated 11:40 AM

CARROLL COUNTY -- An outbreak of whooping cough has hit the county with upwards of a dozen people infected, both adults and children, on both sides of the Kings River.

Health officials say they don't know why whooping cough, known as the "cough of 100 days," has surfaced suddenly.

"We are still searching to find a commonality," said Sherri Plumlee, director of the Carroll County Health Unit. "It appears everyone got ill about the same time -- the first of June."

State health department officials confirmed they are investigating a cluster of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Carroll County.

They encourage the vaccination of children and adults, and the use of antibiotics for those infected and persons in close contact with the infected.

Plumlee said pertussis (whooping cough) is called the "cough of 100 days" because that's how long it lasts. She said coughing "fits" can result in vomiting and whooping cough can be very serious, especially for infants.

Cultures confirm the disease, she said, and it can be treated with appropriate antibiotics.

She said it is spread by airborne droplets that are dispersed when someone coughs.

Most children are routinely vaccinated against the disease through the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccine, she said, that is administered at two months, four months, six months, one year and four years of age.

Seventh graders are now required to receive a similar vaccine, she said, called the Tdap, which has a greater percentage of tetanus vaccine combined with diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccines.

Not everyone is required to receive the vaccines, she said. There are three kinds of exemptions: religious, medical, and philosophical. Those must be renewed annually.

Those who are exempt may be required to stay clear of schools and day-care facilities during an outbreak, Plumlee said, as a condition of the exemption.

For all others, the Tdap is recommended to stop the spread of the whooping cough outbreak.

"It's working its way to more than a small outbreak," Plumlee noted. "This is more than we've seen in this county in a long time.

"This is the primary reason why the health department is here," she continued, "to prevent the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

"Even adults need to get re-vaccinated. Most have not had a dose of the pertussis vaccine since they were young, likely four years old, and they are very susceptible."

She said young people and adults can get whooping cough, not know it, and be carriers, infecting others.

"To be vaccinated, all it takes is one shot in the arm at the health unit," she said. "It's relatively simple, scheduled by appointment, and costs $5 for record maintenance -- unless you have Medicade, then it's free."

Those who think they have whooping cough are encouraged to see their private physician.

"Someone without a doctor can call the health department," she said. "We can do cultures to confirm and we will work to get them treated. We are here to help."

The Carroll County Health Unit, located on Hailey Road in Berryville, is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number is (870) 423-2923.

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