(New Philadelphia, Ohio) – The New Philadelphia office of Akron Children’s Hospital is announcing a spike in pertussis cases (whooping cough).
The illness is a very contagious and potentially deadly illness, especially for newborns and others at high risk. The office has confirmed 14 cases of the illness as of Thursday, December 6th.
According to officials, Akron Children’s is working with public health representatives in Tuscarawas, Harrison, and Carrolton counties to see if there is any link among the patients. This could be something like sharing the same schools or daycare centers.
Dr. Andrew Newburn, a pediatrician at the New Philadelphia office, said the recent spike in cases is a reminder of the importance of getting immunized for pertussis, using good hygiene when coughing and sneezing, and seeking immediate treatment when parents notice symptoms consistent with the disease.
“While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” said Newburn. “When pertussis circulates in a community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease but your symptoms will typically be much less severe.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Pertussis is caused by a type of bacterium called Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria will attach to hair-like extensions that line part of the upper respiratory system, called cilia. These bacteria then release toxins, which damage the cilia and lead to airways swelling.
The CDC explained Pertussis can be spread by coughing and sneezing and those who are infected are the most contagious up to two weeks after a cough begins. The pertussis vaccine is recommended by the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics for all babies, children, teens, and pregnant women.
The CDC notes the first signs of pertussis appear similar to cold-like symptoms such as a mild cough of fever. After one or two weeks, the symptoms include rapid fits of a cough followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound, vomiting during or after coughing and exhaustion after the fits.
Akron Children’s Hospital officials note that babies may or may not cough and a significant complication that could develop is “apnea,” or a pause in the breathing. In serious cases, the illness may cause them to stop breathing and turn blue.
The illness can successfully be treated, according to the CDC, with a five-day course of antibiotics. However, officials stress that for older children, if a cough is not getting better after seven days or if there are other symptoms common in pertussis, you should make an appointment with your pediatrician. They note, do not wait to seek care for infants.