Jackson County's whooping cough rate four times usual

The number of whooping cough cases in Jackson County has soared to four times the usual number so far this year, public health officials reported.

Officials are reminding people of the importance of vaccination against the disease, which is highly contagious and potentially deadly to very young infants.

So far this year 23 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, have been confirmed in the county, Viki Brown, Jackson County's public health division manager, said in a news release. The cases confirmed in lab testing have hit patients ranging from 2 months old to 55 years old. Studies have shown that a relatively small fraction of cases are diagnosed and confirmed, so more people in the county likely have been infected, officials said.

Over the past five years, the county has had an average of 10.8 cases per year.

The Jackson County Health Department sent an advisory to area doctors in March, alerting them to the increase in pertussis cases, and the number has continued to rise, the release said.

Pertussis usually begins with cold-like symptoms and a cough that worsens over a week or two. Symptoms may include intense coughing fits that end with the disease's signature whooping sound and can cause vomiting, inability to catch a breath and turning blue.

Health officials said pertussis is spread through the air by close contact with a sick person. It is contagious for about three weeks or until a patient completes a course of antibiotics. The coughing can continue for months, giving the disease another nickname — the 100-day cough.

California has declared an epidemic with 910 cases and five deaths — all of infants younger than 3 months — confirmed as of mid-June, the Associated Press reported.

The Jackson County Health Department on East Main Street offers vaccinations against pertussis from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The shot costs $15 for people without health insurance and can be free for those in regular contact with infants and children.

— Anita Burke

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