HUNTERDON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
PERTUSSIS OUTBREAK IN HUNTERDON CONFIRMED
The Hunterdon County Department of Health reported today that 39 confirmed cases of pertussis occurred since mid-December 2008. The investigation team is also tracking nine cases currently categorize as “Probable,” and an additional three cases as “Under Investigation.” Of the 60 total cases investigated to date, only nine were classified as “Not a Case.” In the majority of the cases, the ages involved range from seven to 12 years.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. Pertussis is a contagious disease usually spread through the air by close, indoor, repeated contact with an infected person, typically by talking, coughing, or sneezing nearby.
The illness starts with cold symptoms and a cough that gets progressively worse over 1-2 weeks and may last for months. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughing fits that may well be followed by whooping noises, vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching one's breath. Older children, adults, and very young infants may not exhibit the characteristic whoop sound. Coughing often intensifies at night, and cough medicines usually do not provide adequate relief. Symptoms and complications of pertussis generally are less apparent among older children and adults.
Serious complications including pneumonia can result among all age groups due to pertussis infection. Although deaths related to pertussis are rare, they do occur, especially among young infants who have not yet started or completed the pertussis vaccinations. While up to approximately 30 percent of persons with pertussis require hospitalization, about 70 percent of these are infants under six months of age.
Pertussis can infect anyone. The best way to control the spread of pertussis to the most at-risk population is to make sure that all children under age seven receive all their pertussis vaccinations on time. Coincidentally, the current outbreak affects children aged 7-9 for which there is no currently licensed vaccine. However, the licensed Tdap pertussis booster vaccine for persons 10-64 years of age may provide added protection against pertussis and is required by New Jersey law for school aged children.
Children should receive four doses of DTaP vaccine between 2-18 months of age and an additional dose before starting school.
While DTaP vaccine is routinely given to all infants and young children up to age 7, protection from the vaccine diminishes over time. With this, more previously vaccinated pre-adolescent and adolescent children are acquiring pertussis. Persons diagnosed with pertussis must take the full course of antibiotics prescribed by their physician and remain isolated until they have completed five days of treatment in order to limit potential spread of the disease. Persons in close contact with pertussis cases should also take antibiotics as a preventive measure.
If you suspect you or a family member have pertussis or were in contact with a pertussis case, consult your health care provider. Likewise, if you have a cough of seven days or longer with explosive or sleep-disturbing coughing spasms, contact your physician for possible laboratory testing and treatment.
For more information, contact the Hunterdon County Department of Health at 908-788-1351.