Indiana State Health Officials Warn That Pertussis is on the Rise

INDIANAPOLIS -- State health officials report an increase in cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in Indiana and urge parents to get their children immunized.


So far in 2004, there have been 81 confirmed cases of pertussis in Indiana, compared to 44 at this time in 2003.


The increase in pertussis cases in Indiana is part of a national trend, said Wayne Staggs, an epidemiologist with the Indiana State Department of Health. Nationally, the number of cases of pertussis has risen by more than 60 percent, with 9,003 cases reported to date in the United States, as opposed to 5,514 at this time in 2003.


Pertussis is a contagious illness caused by bacteria. It occurs in infants and young children more often than older children and adults. Adults with milder, undiagnosed symptoms can transmit the disease to infants and children. Pertussis is usually spread by contact with an infected persons nose or throat secretions.


Immunization is the best way to prevent pertussis, said Staggs. We urge parents to be sure that their children are up to date on their diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) series.


Pertussis can sometimes occur in children who have been immunized, but symptoms are normally milder than without immunization.


The first symptoms of pertussis are those of the common cold with a mild cough. After a week or two, the cough becomes worse and may occur more frequently during sleep. The cough then becomes paroxysmal (a series of five or ten coughs in a single breath), and usually ends with a whooping sound. Vomiting often occurs at the end of the coughing spell.


Antibiotics can be given to make an individual less contagious, but do not reduce the symptoms unless given very early in illness.


Source: Indiana State Department of Health