Health Department warns of whooping cough

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(Host) Vermont health officials are asking physicians and parents to be on the alert for signs of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Susan Schoenfeld is epidemiology field unit chief for the Vermont Department of Health. She says that adolescents and teenagers are prone to getting the disease, because their early immunization has worn off. But according to Schoenfeld, whooping cough is especially serious for infants.

(Schoenfeld) “Young children, under a year, are the ones that are most apt to get severe complications from infection, can end up hospitalized with their illness. So that protecting children under six months, they need to get vaccine on time. But until they’ve gotten all three of their first doses, protection isn’t that great. So we try to keep them away from people with cough illness, and if there’s a serious cough in the family, coughing followed by vomiting, or coughing followed by this whooping sound, if we can get that other person in the household identified, we can then treat the infant and prevent them from developing illness.”

(Host) According to the Vermont Department of Health, pertussis most often begins gradually with cold-like symptoms and cough. Severe coughing spells develop, which may occur several times a day. The coughing spasms can last from four to six weeks.

A hundred cases of pertussis have been reported to the Health Department this year. Hardest hit has been Washington County, with 41 confirmed cases and 19 more being investigated.

Schoenfeld says Vermont has an adequate supply of pertussis vaccine.

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