06/12/14 — County on whooping cough watch

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County on whooping cough watch

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 12, 2014 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Health Department is on "pertussis watch," Communicable Disease Program manager Josa Raynor-Vaughn told the Board of Health on Wednesday.

"As of today, we have four (cases). I got another one today," she said. "Two were in the southern end of the county, one in Rosewood and we also have one in the northern end of the county.

"We are on surveillance for that and we're trying to prevent an outbreak of that. If you see anybody coughing, tell them to go to their physician."

Because of privacy laws, she could not provide identifying information about those who had diagnosed in the clinic, but indicated that most that have been seen in Wayne County were children, typically elementary school age.

"We are being vigilant about pertussis," she said, especially in light of a recent spike in cases in Duplin County.

Last month, the Duplin County Health Department announced it was dealing with an outbreak of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, with close to 40 confirmed cases.

The highly contagious respiratory disease commonly affects infants and young children and can be life-threatening, particularly for babies under a year old, officials said.

Symptoms may start out like a cold -- runny nose, sneezing and a cough that gradually worsens. Pertussis is known for its uncontrollable, violent coughing, which often results in difficulty breathing.

It is treatable with antibiotics if caught early enough.

The North Carolina Department of Health also reported that Mecklenburg County is dealing with a spike in cases of whooping cough this year, with 16 confirmed cases so far, while Wake County has reported 11 and Wake County has had eight.

The state's Department of Health and Human Services released a report identifying the number of cases by month and county from Jan. 1 through May 31. An estimated 235 cases had been reported statewide for that period, while Duplin County had the highest number to date, with 57. Buncombe County was next, with a total of 24.

For that same period, Wayne County only had two, one each in February and March.

The recent cases are calling attention to the need to vaccinate, Mrs. Raynor-Vaughn said, advising anyone who is symptomatic to seek treatment.

"Advise folks that it's a condition," board member Bob Cagle said. "There's a possibility of issues with it. If they have got severe coughing, they need to get help."

Mrs. Raynor-Vaughn also pointed out that the Tdap vaccine, which is for tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, is required for all students entering sixth grade or who are 12 years old on or before Aug. 1. State immunization rules, which went into effect in 2008, require the booster shot within the first 30 days of the start of school.

"I think we have a really high compliance rate," said Health Director Davin Madden, with the exception of those who may claim religious reasons as an exemption. "But those are really far between."

Evelyn Coley, director of nursing at the Health Department, also stressed the need for caregivers and family members to take advantage of the vaccination's availability.

"Because immunity wanes over time, they recommend that anybody around infants -- parents and grandparents -- that they get vaccinated," she said.