Transmission and symptoms of pertussis
• Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium bordetella pertussis.
• Pertussis is known to cause uncontrollable, violent coughing, which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound.
• Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies younger than 1 year of age.
An increase in cases of Pertussis, more commonly known as “whooping cough,” in some metro Atlanta counties and other states has prompted Coastal Health District officials to remind residents that getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective way to prevent the disease.
One case of whooping cough has been confirmed in Liberty County. Other confirmed cases of whooping cough in the district include one in Effingham County and two in Camden County. The district includes Liberty, Long, Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, and McIntosh counties.
Pertussis is a contagious illness that mainly affects the respiratory system and can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children.
“We have some pertussis in our health district every year, and this year is no different,” district interim health director Dr. Diane Z. Weems said. “Although we haven’t seen an unusually high number of cases in coastal Georgia, hearing about just one case serves as an important reminder that both children and adults should be vaccinated.”
There are two vaccines for pertussis, one for infants and young children and one for older children, adolescents and adults. All health departments have the pertussis vaccine. While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, people who have been vaccinated are less likely to get whooping cough. If they do get the disease, studies show the cough won’t last as long or be as bad.
“Anyone can get whooping cough,” Weems said. “Sometimes people get it and don’t even realize that they have it and are spreading it. That’s why it is so important to get vaccinated.”
People at the greatest risk for getting pertussis include infants younger than 1 year old and pregnant women, especially those in their third trimesters. In addition, it’s important for anyone who may expose infants or pregnant women to the disease — such as child-care or health-care workers — to get vaccinated.
For more information on pertussis, go to cdc.gov/pertussis. For more information on getting vaccinated, call a local health department.