EDGEWOOD, Ky. — Health officials issued a warning Monday, cautioning Northern Kentucky residents about an apparent increase in cases of whooping cough across the region.
According to Northern Kentucky Health Department spokeswoman Emily Gresham-Wherle, 31 cases of whooping cough — also known as pertussis — across Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties since Nov. 1. Thirteen of those cases occurred in the last week of November alone.
Compared to last year’s totals in that time period — that is, seven — the trend shows a 400 percent increase in just one year.
Gresham-Wherle said the majority of these recent cases have been seen in school-aged youth 10 and over, but officials have seen some cases in school children’s parents, as well.
Whooping cough could be missed, as its early symptoms resemble bad cold, allergies or even a mild case of the flu: runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough. But as the illness progresses into its second or third week, a persistent cough develops characterized by explosive bursts, sometimes ending in a high-pitched “whoop.” Sometimes the whooping inducing vomiting, as well.
While whooping cough generally is not considered a life-threatening disease, it can be deadly to infants, the elderly, and those with immune deficiencies.
But part of officials’ concern with the recent increase in cases is that, while the pertussis vaccine is widely administered throughout the U.S., the vaccine isn’t a guarantee against coming down with the cough.
That’s because it wears off over time.
“Although vaccination protects most people against whooping cough, no vaccination is 100 percent effective,” said Lynne Saddler, the NKHD’s district director of health. “Some people who are fully vaccinated may still become infected and have a mild case of the illness.
“In those instances, it is still important for people who are ill to stay home and avoid contact with others,” she said.
For this reason, health officials recommend adults and parents of teens age 10 or older should ensure their Tdap vaccinations are up to date.
The Northern Kentucky Health Department offers a number of resources for low income families or those without health insurance to cover vaccinations such as the pertussis vaccine.
Individuals who have a cough lasting more than 2 weeks and/or one that gets progressively worse should see a doctor as soon as possible and avoid contact with those who might be extra susceptible to contracting the illness.