On Monday, officials with the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) reported more than 500 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) statewide so far this season.
A press release issued by the department stated the number is the most the state has seen since 1959.
According to ISDH information, there have been five reported cases of whooping cough in Clay County, the most in the Wabash Valley. The ISDH chart only reports counties that have reported five or more cases.
Clay County Health Department Public Health Nurse Kim Hyatt, R.N., said while there are cases of whooping cough in the county, there is no cause for alarm.
"(The number is high) compared to the other surrounding counties," Hyatt said, "but I am not as alarmed because it's only a couple of families. It's not like there are five separate families."
Hyatt added there have been no reports of whooping cough through the Clay Community School System.
The ISDH also said there have been two infant deaths reported as a result of pertussis.
Whooping cough is a contagious illness caused by bacteria. It can cause severe coughing fits that can interfere with breathing. Typically, pertussis is milder in older children and adults, but undiagnosed persons can transmit the disease to infants and younger children.
"Whooping cough is more of a high-pitched cough," Hyatt said. "It's not just your regular cough."
Pertussis can lead to pneumonia, seizures and sometimes death.
"I find this outbreak particularly concerning because pertussis can be prevented with a vaccine," State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D., said in the release. "Children and adults, alike, are at risk for life-threatening infections from pertussis, but there is a safe and effective vaccine."
Larkin urged parents should ensure their children are current with all vaccines. According to the press release, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has recommended the Tdap vaccine (for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) for everyone 7-older. Younger children, according to the release, should receive the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) series.
Hyatt stressed the importance of vaccinations, especially for children.
"If you're sick, go to the doctor," she said, adding the health department has Tdap and DTaP vaccinations available.
For more information, call 448-9019.
What is Whooping Cough?
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It is known to last for a duration of approximately six weeks before subsiding.
The disease gets its name from the "whoop" sound made from the inspiration of air after a cough.
Transmission of pertussis occurs through contact with infectious respiratory secretions. Droplet contact and close person-to-person contact are also modes of transmission.
The symptoms of pertussis occur in three stages, including:
* Stage 1: Symptoms are similar to a cold, including slight fever, sneezing, runny nose, dry cough, loss of appetite and irritability,
* Stage 2: About one-two weeks later, the cough becomes more intense. There may be short, intense coughing spells followed by a long gasp for air -- when the "whoop" is heard. The coughing fits may be followed by vomiting, nose bleeds or bluish color to the face, and
* Stage 3: The cough is less intense and less frequent and appetite begins to increase. Eventually, the cough stops, although this could take several months.
Additional steps people can take to prevent the spread of pertussis:
* Properly wash hands frequently,
* Cover cough and sneeze, and
* Contain germs by staying home (or keep children at home from school) if sick.
Note: Information provided by the Indiana State Department of Health.