Kansas Whooping Cough Cases Increase in 2004

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported an increasing number of confirmed pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the state in the past five-months of this year. From May though September there were 31 confirmed cases of pertussis reported to KDHE, compared to an average of nine cases in the previous three years for the same months.


The Kansas counties with confirmed and probable cases during May to September include Douglas, Franklin, Johnson, Leavenworth , Lincoln, Miami, Saline, Sedgwick, Shawnee, and Wyandotte. An increase in the number of cases has also been reported in some other Midwestern states.


Pertussis, a highly contagious respiratory infection commonly referred to as whooping cough, is a potentially fatal childhood disease that is preventable with vaccination. The disease is named after the "whoop" sound children and adults often make when they try to inhale during or after a severe coughing spell.


People can get infected with pertussis by inhaling contaminated droplets from an infected person's cough or sneeze. A person with pertussis becomes contagious in the early stages of infection. During this period, the person usually just has a runny nose. They are still quite contagious the first two weeks after onset of the cough (approximately 21 days total).


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mild cases of pertussis are difficult to diagnose because they resemble a cold. However, mild cases can be passed on to young children and can produce severe illness in the child. The CDC urges individuals that suspect they have pertussis to limit contact with unvaccinated children and see a physician as soon as possible.


Symptoms of pertussis appear as a cold or flu-like including a runny nose, sneezing, fever, and a mild cough. Symptoms can last up to two weeks and are followed by increasingly severe coughing spells. Fever, if present, is usually mild. Symptoms appear between six to 21 days (average seven to 10) after exposure to the bacteria.


During a classic coughing episode, the signature whoop is heard when the patient struggles to breath. Cough usually produces a thick mucus. Vomiting may occur after a coughing episode and the lips and nails may turn blue due to lack of oxygen. The patient is left exhausted after the coughing spell.


If you, or a member of your family, is exhibiting symptoms, including cough for two weeks or longer, without other explanation, please contact your physician. There are medications to treat the infection and relieve the symptoms.


The single most effective control measure is immunization of the most vulnerable population against pertussis. Immunization is recommended at 2, 4, 6, and 12 months of age with a booster at kindergarten entry.


Young infants are at highest risk for pertussis-related complications, including seizures, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), severe ear infection, anorexia (severe loss of appetite) and dehydration. Pneumonia is the most common complication and cause of infantile pertussis-related deaths.


Source: Kansas Department of Health and Environment