Pertussis outbreak prompts
public health warning
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At least 69 sickened in four Chicago-area
SPRINGFIELD -- Due to a
lingering outbreak of pertussis in four Chicago-area counties, Dr.
Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, has urged parents to
ensure that their children have been properly immunized against this
highly contagious disease and asked that people exhibiting symptoms
seek medical care immediately.
Since March, at least 69 people have
been sickened by pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in
Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. There have been no deaths.
Cases have ranged in age from 2 years
to 55 years, but 80 percent of those diagnosed with the bacterial
disease are 10 to 15 years of age. This is the first documented
outbreak of pertussis in the United States involving youths in the
10- to 15-year-old age group.
"Anyone who has symptoms of pertussis
and has had contact with a person with pertussis should consult
their health care provider," Dr. Whitaker said. "The department is
working closely with local health departments in each of the four
counties to investigate and to help control the outbreak."
Dr. Whitaker called on doctors and
other health care providers in northeastern Illinois to assist local
health departments in controlling the outbreak by promptly reporting
suspect cases. Those with pertussis and their close contacts should
be treated with antibiotics.
The five-dose pertussis vaccine is
recommended for every child beginning at 2 months of age. Other
doses are given at 4, 6 and 15 months and a final dose at 4 to 6
years of age. The vaccine is given in the same shot with diphtheria
and tetanus and is required for school attendance.
The vaccination provides protection
when children are most susceptible to serious illness, but
immunization begins to wane three to five years after the last shot.
Protection can be completely gone 12 years after the final
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Despite immunization efforts, pertussis
in the United States has increased 400 percent since 1980. In
Illinois, during the past decade the number of cases has risen from
111 in 1994 to 320 in 2003.
Pertussis can be easily spread from
person to person through coughing and sneezing. An infected person
is contagious from just before the onset of symptoms until up to
three weeks after symptoms start. Although it is generally not a
severe disease for adults, it can be a serious illness and cause
death, particularly among children younger than 1 year of age.
Symptoms usually appear five to 10 days
after exposure but can take as long as 21 days to develop. The first
symptoms to appear are similar to a common cold -- runny nose,
sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild, occasional cough. The cough
gradually becomes severe and, after one to two weeks, the patient
has spasmodic bursts of numerous, rapid coughs.
The characteristic high-pitched "whoop"
comes from breathing in after a coughing episode. During such an
attack, the patient may turn blue, vomit and become exhausted.
Between coughing attacks, the patient usually appears normal. Some
patients do not have the whooping-type of cough and may experience
only a persistent cough.
tend to increase in frequency for a couple weeks, remain at the same
level for two to three weeks and then gradually decrease. Coughing
can last 10 weeks or longer. Recovery is gradual, and coughing
episodes can recur with subsequent respiratory infections for months
after the onset of pertussis.
Department of Public Health news release]