HAYDEN, Idaho. - Whooping cough (pertussis) has been confirmed in nine children who live in Kootenai County and range in age from 3 months to 15 years.
None of the children has been hospitalized. The cases of the highly contagious illness are so far confined to people within one social network. No cases outside this network have been reported.
"Most of the sick children have not been immunized," said Dave Hylsky, epidemiologist with the Panhandle Health District. "Pertussis (whooping cough) is highly contagious in group settings—within families, in classrooms."
The pertussis vaccine protects people from getting the disease, but it doesn't work completely for all people. Still, it has been shown to prevent serious symptoms in people who have been vaccinated.
Since January, a total of 39 cases of pertussis have been reported in the five northern counties—19 in Kootenai County, 19 in Benewah County and one in Bonner County. Last year, northern Idaho had 74 cases of pertussis with no deaths. The five northern counties typically report a total of six or seven cases of whooping cough per year.
Pertussis is among the diseases childhood vaccinations help prevent. It's a highly contagious illness characterized by severe coughing spells that can cause vomiting and lack of breath. Untreated, pertussis can develop into pneumonia, seizures and encephalitis.
It's particularly dangerous for children younger than one year of age. Most pertussis deaths occur in unvaccinated children or in children too young to be vaccinated.
Pertussis typically starts with a runny nose and watery eyes, but a cough takes over in a week or two. Anyone with symptoms should contact a doctor. People spread pertussis by coughing or sneezing while they're in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.
People with pertussis are contagious early in the infection, sometimes before the coughing starts, and stay contagious for up to three weeks after the cough starts. Doctor-prescribed antibiotics can kill the infection and prevent it from spreading. Patients need to complete five days of antibiotics before they're considered no longer contagious.
Children diagnosed with pertussis need to stay home from school or child care until they have completed five days of antibiotic treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that entire families take the antibiotics if any one member of the family is diagnosed with pertussis.
The DTaP immunization, which contains pertussis vaccine, is available at PHD for children younger than 6. A pertussis booster vaccination, Tdap, is available at PHD for anyone age 11 or older.
Because pertussis is highly contagious and dangerous for babies, adults around infants are advised to get a Tdap. Immunizations are available from most doctors and from PHD. For an immunization appointment at PHD, call:
- Benewah County – 245-4556
- Bonner County – 263-5159
- Boundary County – 267-5558
- Kootenai County – 415-5270
- Shoshone County – 786-7474