Thursday, February 29, 2024

New Hanover health officials see increase in whooping cough, encourage vaccine updates (free read)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The county’s public health director is asking residents of all ages to consider vaccines and boosters for pertussis, the bacterial infection that causes ‘whooping cough.’

According to Phillip Tarte, public health director, the highly contagious infection can cause violent coughing for up to 10 weeks; and while it is often thought of as a childhood disease, it can affect people of all ages.

“We usually think of children developing whooping cough, but adults can develop it too and are often not diagnosed until later in the illness. That’s why it’s important for children to have their DTaP vaccine, and for adults to have their Tdap booster,” Tarte said.

County health officials noted the symptoms of pertussis. While symptoms can vary by individual, they include:

  • Severe fits of coughing, including rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched, “whoop” sound
  • Coughing fits followed by vomiting
  • Exhaustion after coughing fits
  • Apnea (temporarily stopped breathing—usually in infants)

Tarte encouraged anyone who thinks they or a child are showing symptoms to contact a healthcare provider.

County officials also addressed the question of who should receive a vaccine.

“Everyone needs protection from pertussis. Children under 7 years of age should receive five doses of DTaP vaccine.  DTaP is a vaccine series that helps children younger than age 7 develop immunity against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. It is recommended that the DTaP series begin at 2 months of age, and continue at 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years of age,” according to the county.

For older children and adults, the county recommends the “Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis) vaccine,” which “is given to older children and adults. Children 7 through 10 years of age should receive one dose of Tdap if they were not fully vaccinated with DTaP. Adolescents through age 18 should receive one dose of Tdap; preferably at 11 through 12 years of age. Everyone 19 years of age or older should receive one dose of Tdap.”

Health officials recommend Tdap vaccination for the following residents:

  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant;
  • Anyone who has close contact with infants under 12 months of age (parents, siblings, grandparents, household contacts, childcare providers); and
  • Anyone with a pre-existing, chronic respiratory disease.

The Pertussis vaccine (DTaP and/or Tdap) is widely available from private and public health care providers, as well as directly from New Hanover County Public Health. For details and information on vaccination, visit the North Carolina immunization and vaccination site here, or contact New Hanover County Public Health (910) 798-6500.

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