cases appear in
Express Staff Writer
people in Blaine County, including two students, have been diagnosed
with whooping cough since Sept. 20.
Cheryle Becker, epidemiologist with South Central District Health, said
the current cases are probably the result of an increased visibility of
the disease rather than an epidemic.
said one of the current victims, a man in Hailey, has a serious case,
but not to the extent that he has required hospitalization.
known as pertussis, the bacteria-caused disease gets its common name
from the rapid inhalation of air that occurs between paroxysms of
coughing experienced by its sufferers. It is most serious among young
children. However, its most common means of infection is through adults,
whose relatively mild symptoms tend to mask the presence of the disease.
Becker said whooping cough probably maintains a permanent presence in
it gets to a person who has the classic set of symptoms, itís not
recognized," she said.
currently diagnosed victims are in two families, and range in age from
10 to 50 years. Two of them attend Wood River Valley schools. Becker
said the two students were out of school long enough for a regimen of
antibiotics to render them non-infectious.
to the Centers for Disease Control, there are about 4,400 cases of
pertussis diagnosed in the United States annually. In rare cases the
disease is fatal, most commonly as the result of a secondary infection
of bacterial pneumonia. Infants are most at risk of dying from pertussis
itself or of contracting a secondary infection.
babies will just quit breathing," Becker said. "If you had
once seen a baby in the hospital with pertussis, you would not soon
symptoms of the disease are those of a cold, followed in one to two
weeks by a cough of gradually increasing severity. The "paroxsysmal"
stage of coughing typically lasts for two to three weeks, then gradually
tapers off. Coughing can occur for up to two months.
are generally given to people in the same household with a carrier of
the disease, but cannot eliminate symptoms in a person already infected.
They do, however, kill the bacteria within about five days and thereby
help prevent the disease from spreading.
can be prevented by a series of four vaccinations that typically begins
at four months of age. However, the protection gradually wears off, and
many teens and adults are susceptible to the disease. Becker said that
due to lack of testing, the vaccine is not given to anyone over 7 years
old. She said tests are under way for an adult vaccine.
current spate of local whooping cough cases, Becker contended, should
act as a reminder to parents to get unprotected children vaccinated.