The Alabama Department of Public Health’s Immunization Division is warning citizens that pertussis cases are significantly higher in Alabama and continue to be on the rise. Immunization data reveals an increase from 113 reported cases in 2016, to 151 reported cases thus far in 2017. Pertussis cases have occurred statewide in 2017, including multiple outbreaks in Calhoun and Chambers counties.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory notifiable disease in Alabama. Pertussis begins with symptoms such as a runny nose, low grade fever, and cough. After a week or two of the illness, pertussis progresses to violent coughing, making it difficult for those infected to breathe. After fits of many coughs, people with the illness often need to take deep breaths which result in a “whooping” sound.
“Alabama is not alone in the growth of pertussis cases. Nationwide we have seen an increase in pertussis cases, and while there are several factors that could contribute to this, one generally accepted reason from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that although the pertussis vaccine is effective, it tends to decrease in immunity over time,” said Dr. Karen Landers, Assistant State Health Officer. “That’s why it’s so important that we educate Alabamians on this disease and let them know how they can prevent and treat it.”
During an outbreak of pertussis, Immunization Division staff collect specimens for testing, assess vaccine status, contact persons via phone who have been in places where exposure has occurred, and provide information for entities to share with those who may have been exposed. Those who are concerned that they may have been exposed to the disease, or feel that they are exhibiting symptoms, should consult their primary physician to be evaluated.
“Patients should be aware that this is a serious disease that can affect people of all ages. It can even be deadly for babies less than a year old. That’s why it’s especially important for parents and grandparents who are in close contact with infants to make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations,” said Dr. Landers.
According to CDC, the best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated. Pregnant women should also be vaccinated with Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) during each pregnancy as a way to protect infants.
For more information on signs and symptoms of pertussis, or vaccination information, please visit alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization and the division’s Facebook page Alabama Immunization Info at facebook.com/AlabamaImmunizationInfo.