Whooping Cough Outbreak in Florida
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|Wed, 08-06-2008 - 6:13pm|
Whooping Cough Cases Rise Dramatically in Polk
The 23 confirmed cases this year are triple those reported throughout 2007.
By Robin Williams Adams
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 5:45 a.m.
Three other cases are considered probable whooping cough, a respiratory condition also called pertussis.
Officials do not know why the number of cases rose so dramatically this year.
That compares to seven confirmed cases last year, with another six probable. Probable cases meet most of the criteria for the disease, while in confirmed cases, the organism causing the disease has been identified in laboratory testing or grown in a laboratory culture, said Haight, who directs the Polk County Health Department.
More than half the cases this year involved children 8 to 12 years old, with the most serious ones in infants.
Dr. Ayanna Rolette and her colleagues at Lakeside Pediatrics in Lakeland are among the local physicians dealing with the impact of the increase.
"We have seen an increase of pertussis cases in our practice in all ages, from infant, preschool, toddler, early elementary and up," said Rolette, a former chairwoman of pediatrics for the Lakeland Regional Medical Center medical staff.
"We are seeing a lot of people who have stopped vaccinating their children, who are putting other children at risk because they're coming down with it," she said.
The pediatricians also see a few cases in children who got whooping cough despite having been immunized against it, she said.
The severe coughing spells the disease causes in children make it difficult, particularly for infants, to eat, drink or breathe.
The coughing comes with a high-pitched whooping sound that occurs when children try to catch their breath between coughs, Haight said. That is where the name of the disease originated.
Doctors can treat the disease with antibiotics.
It gets missed in adults too often, Haight said.
"Adults tend not to be ill, but they do have these chronic coughs," he said.
Cases in Polk this year mostly are unrelated, rather than occurring in clusters, Haight said.
But the infection, caused by bacteria, can and does spread among people who come into sustained, close contact.
And it's people with mild cases, typically adults and teenagers, who are likely to spread the disease to unvaccinated babies and older adults whose immune systems have been weakened by age or illness.
People should get evaluated by their doctor if a cough persists longer than two weeks, Haight said.
Rolette said parents should raise the question of pertussis with their children's pediatrician if a cough occurs for three weeks or more.
"If we don't test for it, we don't know it's the reason for the child's symptoms and provide appropriate treatment," she said.
They have several reasons for broadcasting the news about Polk's upsurge of whooping cough cases:
Make doctors and the community aware of the risk
Promote childhood immunizations for pertussis
Let adults know whooping cough isn't limited to children
Encourage booster shots for people 11 years old through 64 years old
Childhood pertussis vaccination is given with tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations in a combined vaccine called DTaP for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
Children get a total of five shots, starting at 2 months old and ending sometime between 4 to 6 years old.
People 11 through 64 years old should get a Tdap booster shot every 10 years that combines protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. That increases their protection and that of people they come into contact with.
People in close contact with someone who has pertussis can be treated with protective antibiotics, he said.
Haight wants doctors to view this disease as a possibility for adult patients who have chronic coughs, particularly if they haven't gotten booster shots.
"Our emphasis is to protect those too young to vaccinate by encouraging the Tdap vaccination for adults and adolescents," he said.