Iowa Pertussis Numbers on the Rise:154 cases reported so far in 2012


May 7th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

 The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) says testing performed by the State Hygienic Laboratory indicates more than 150 case of pertussis (whooping cough) have been reported so far in 2012 including 2 in Pottawattamie County, and one each in Adair and Montgomery Counties, from January 1st through May 3rd. Statewide, that’s a 121 percent increase over the number of cases reported at this time in 2011. Officials say the actual number of cases is probably much higher though, because most adults with pertussis are not diagnosed or reported. And, while children ages 5 to 14 years make up the bulk of reported cases, officials say it’s important to note that adults are considered the primary ‘spreaders’ of the disease. 

IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says “Children receive pertussis vaccine series beginning at 2 months of age, and are recommended to get a booster dose of pertussis vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age. Most adults haven’t had a pertussis vaccination since childhood so they probably have no immunity left to pertussis. When they get the disease, their symptoms are milder and are often mistaken for a lingering cough, but they still spread the disease to others.”  Therefore, according to Quinlisk,  it’s especially important that adults who are around children receive pertussis-containing vaccine because they can spread the disease to infants and young children who are too young to be fully immunized. In infants, pertussis can be severe and even deadly. Adults can receive the Tdap shot (the adult “tetanus booster” that also contains pertussis vaccine). 

The most common symptoms of pertussis in children are fits of coughing sometimes followed by vomiting or a ‘whooping’ sound as air is inhaled. Adults also cough, but usually the cough is not as severe, and the “whoop” is not heard. This is why many adults do not realize they have pertussis. While taking antibiotics will treat the infection and prevent an individual from spreading the disease any further, the cough may continue for weeks while the irritated airways completely heal