Whooping cough warning issued on Long Island

October 27, 2011 3:22:40 PM PDT
Suffolk County Health Commissioner James L. Tomarken said today that Suffolk County has reported a greater number of pertussis cases this year than it had in recent years, following a nationwide increase in the incidence of pertussis since the 1980s.

Suffolk has reported 179 cases of pertussis to the New York State Department of Health this year, compared with 54 cases in 2010 and 75 cases in 2009. Nationwide, 27,550 cases of pertussis were reported in 2010, up from 16,858 pertussis cases 2009.

"In order to contain the spread of infection, we ask health care providers to consider pertussis as a possible diagnosis when patients present with cold-like symptoms and a dry cough," said Dr. Tomarken. "Early detection and appropriate antibiotic treatment is the key to minimizing symptoms and containing the spread of the infection."

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that begins with cold-like symptoms or a dry cough that progress to a severe uncontrollable, violent cough lasting several weeks or months. It is spread from person to person through droplets. Pertussis is particularly dangerous, even fatal, to infants who have not been fully immunized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), multiple factors have likely contributed to the increase in pertussis cases, including waning immunity from childhood pertussis vaccines, increased recognition of the disease, and better diagnostic testing and increased reporting.

"The most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community," said Dr. Kathy Thompson, Director of Communicable Diseases for Suffolk County.

Immunization authorities recommend that DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine be given at two, four, six and 15 to 18 months of age and between four and six years of age. In 2005, a new vaccine, called Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis), was approved as a single booster vaccination for adolescents and adults. Parents are encouraged to ensure that their children's immunizations are up to date.

Health officials also suggest that adults who are in close contact with infants less than 12 months of age and who have not previously received Tdap immunization should receive a dose of Tdap immunization. Those adults who previously received only the Td (tetanus, diphtheria) immunization should also receive Tdap immunization.

Parents and physicians who have questions about pertussis may contact the Suffolk County Department of Health Services' Division of Public Health at 631-853-3055.

For more information please visit: http://www.vaccineinformation.org/video/pertussis.asp