Recent reports of pertussis in the Black Hills area have the Department of Heath reminding parents to make sure their kids are appropriately immunized.
South Dakota had 67 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, in 2013. So far this year we have had 29 cases reported and several suspects and many close contacts. A disproportionate number of cases have been in the Black Hills area.
Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough. Early symptoms resemble a common cold, including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and is characterized by episodes of numerous rapid coughs followed by a crowing or high pitched whoop. Thick, clear mucus may be discharged. Coughing episodes may recur for one to two months, and are more frequent at night.
While it can affect people of any age, it is most severe in babies under 6 months old, especially in preterm and unvaccinated infants. The elderly are also at risk.
The single most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community. The vaccine is given in a series of doses at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age and between 4 and 6 years of age. Because immunity wanes over time, a booster dose is recommended for adolescents, 11-12 years of age, and for adults.
Treatment with antibiotics can shorten the contagious period. People who have been in contact with an infected person should see their physician, receive antibiotics, and be monitored for respiratory symptoms for 21 days after the last contact. People with pertussis or their symptomatic contacts may be isolated to prevent the spread of the disease.