WELD COUNTY, Colo. — With seven of its county’s schools currently reporting cases of Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment issued a warning on Thursday morning.
According to the department, Weld County has seen 96 diagnosed cases of whooping cough this year, with an age range of 2 months to 71 years old. That number is quite an uptick, given that Weld County only sees an average of four cases per year.
And health department officials indicated they’re as concerned with the identified case as they are about the unidentified cases, because, as the department wrote in a press release, “a general rule of thumb is for every person diagnosed with pertussis, there are about 10 people sick with undiagnosed pertussis.”
“Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that is noted for a stubborn and persistent cough, and is spread primarily from person-to-person by coughing,” the department wrote. “It is very contagious and can be fatal in some cases.”
The illness often starts with cold-like symptoms, including sneezing, a runny nose or low-grade fever, along with a mild cough, the department stated. The cough usually becomes more severe during the first week or two, and is sometimes characterized by episodes of rapid coughs, followed by a high-pitched whoop, vomiting, or breathlessness.
The illness can last for a couple of months, with coughing being more frequent at night. If not treated properly, there is a higher probability that whooping cough can lead to hospitalization, and even death.
The Weld County health department issued these three steps as good ways to avoid, deal with and prevent the spread of whooping cough:
- Get vaccinated
According to a study conducted in 2009 by Kaiser Permanente, unvaccinated children are 23 times more likely to become infected with pertussis, than those who have been immunized. It’s important to follow the recommended series of boosters for both adults and children — because the pertussis vaccine does not provide life-long protection.
- Get tested by a health care provider
In order to receive the appropriate treatment, this step is especially prudent if you find yourself with a cough that lasts longer than two weeks.
- Always cover your cough and wash your hands
The health department also recommends “cocooning” vaccination efforts beyond just the parents and siblings — that is to encourage grandparents and care givers to get vaccinated, in order to protect the infants and children they are caring for from pertussis.