News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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First half of 2010 sees rise in pertussis cases in Emmet County

(July 19, 2010) In a typical year, about six to eight cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, are reported to the Health Department of Northwest Michigan in its four-county service area. 2010, however, is not a typical year. From January through June 2010, there were 10 cases of pertussis in Emmet County alone.

With pertussis cases also reported in Antrim, Charlevoix, and Otsego counties, anyone who is not fully immunized against the vaccine-preventable disease may be exposed.

Public health officials encourage adults to check their children's, and their own, immunization records. Vaccination not only protects individuals against infections, it prevents them from spreading illness to others whose immunizations are not up-to-date, particularly babies.

"When infants are diagnosed with pertussis infection, the likely source is undiagnosed adults or older children in the home,"” said Pat Fralick, Director of Family & Community Health Services for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. She said about two-thirds of young children with pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents, relatives, or other caregivers.

"The highest rate of complications, such as pneumonia and hospitalization, are most often seen in children under one year of age," she said.

Pertussis is highly contagious and one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. Usually, people with pertussis spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.

Symptoms of pertussis can be different for different people, depending on how old they are or if they have been immunized. It usually starts with cold-like symptoms, like a mild cough. The hallmark "whoop" is generally absent in older children and adults, but many have fits of unstoppable coughing and/or vomiting caused by coughing. Adults can have a cough that sounds like a smoker's cough. Pertussis frequently goes unrecognized in adolescents and adults because the disease tends to be milder in these age groups and adults less frequently seek medical treatment.

Seeking treatment when pertussis symptoms first start is important. If you or your child is having trouble breathing, seek immediate medical attention. Tell the doctor if you or your child has been around others with cough or cold symptoms or if you've heard that pertussis is in your community. Antibiotic treatments can help prevent spreading the disease to close contacts and is necessary to stopping the spread of pertussis.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about pertussis or pertussis immunization, contact the Health Department at 800-432-4121 or your health care provider.