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July 9, 2010

Dr. Norfleet Reminds People to Stay Protected from Whooping Cough

OSWEGO - Pertussis, or whooping cough as many people know it, is a very contagious disease. Pertussis can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults; it is especially dangerous to infants who have not been fully vaccinated yet. Presently, Central New York is experiencing an increase in the number of people sick with pertussis.

“Pertussis starts like the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever,” says Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Oswego County Director of Public Health, “but after one to two weeks, severe coughing begins. Infants and children with the disease cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they're forced to inhale with a loud ‘whooping’ sound.”

Although many people are vaccinated against pertussis as children, their immunity decreases over time and they are then vulnerable to falling ill from pertussis. Adults with pertussis usually have much milder symptoms than children with pertussis. Sometimes they are unaware that they are even ill with it. Parents, older siblings and caregivers can easily pass pertussis on to children who are not yet vaccinated against pertussis.

The easiest way to prevent pertussis is vaccination. Children receive a vaccine (DTaP) that protects against pertussis at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 months, and at 4 to 6 years old. They will not be fully vaccinated until they receive all five doses. Starting at 11 to 12 years old, pre-teens should receive a booster called Tdap. Adults who have never received a Tdap should replace their tetanus booster they receive every 10 years with a Tdap vaccine. Vaccination is very important for families with new infants.

The Oswego County Health Department holds walk-in immunization clinics every Friday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St. in Oswego, and the first and third Friday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m. at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse in Pulaski.

Those who have questions about pertussis or vaccinations, should call their health care provider or the Oswego County Health Department weekdays at 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.

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