Whooping cough cases increasing statewide
Pertussis cases 2005-12
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:18AM
Health advocates say the high number of whooping cough cases across DuPage County recently mirrors a statewide trend that could be stymied if more people get vaccinated.
As of Aug. 15, the DuPage County Health Department had reported 139 whooping cough cases so far in 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The county didn’t experience triple-digit cases until 2011 when the number of ill increased to 268 from 92 the year prior.
Statewide more than 1,500 cases of whooping cough were recorded 2011. So far this year, about 1,200 cases have been reported in Illinois as of Aug. 15.
Also known as pertussis, the respiratory disease is characterized by uncontrollable spats of violent coughing.
Health officials and medical professionals attribute its rise to a variety of factors — including better awareness and thus increased diagnoses of the disease during the past decade.
The waning effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine, particularly in children who received the shot between the ages of 4 and 6, has also contributed to a spike in reported cases.
To curb the disease, the state is requiring those entering sixth and ninth grades to receive a booster dose of the vaccine for protection.
Although most are able to recover from whooping cough with an antibiotic, pertussis could be fatal to vulnerable populations that lack immunity, particularly babies under 1.
Whooping cough is caused by a germ residing in the mouth, nose and throat that spreads through coughing and sneezing, according to the IDPH.
Its symptoms initially mimic those of a common cold — a runny nose and slight fever accompanied by an occasional cough — but increase in severity after one to two weeks.
Rough, spasmodic coughing fits, followed by the high-pitched “whoop” sound, may cause the infected person to turn blue, vomit and become exhausted, according to the IDPH.
DuPage County Health Department spokesman David Hass said reports of pertussis in the county have included those vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Regardless, he said, it is important for children to complete the initial five-dose vaccine series and for people 11 and older to get the pertussis booster shot at least once in their lifetime.
Jill Sobolewski, a family medicine specialist at Hinsdale Primary Care Associates who also treats patients at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, said a high immunization rate among area residents is causing her to see fewer cases.
She suspects some may also be curtailing fully developing it by taking antibiotics when they experience cold symptoms that hint of an unspecified infection.
Butler School District 53 hasn’t had any student reports of whooping cough in the last nine years, said Deme Failla, a district nurse.
Encouraging strong sanitary habits is one way the district has kept the disease out. Failla said all students are taught ways to maintain good personal hygiene, such as covering a cough or sneeze with an elbow, and washing hands frequently.
She conducts presentations for second-graders about viruses and bacteria and how disease spreads.
“Around second grade they start to do more of their own care,” she said. “We want them to learn it the correct way.”
With an exception for students who have medical and religious exemptions, Failla said incoming sixth-graders are expected to meet the state’s vaccination requirement to help contain the spread of pertussis.
“I hope to keep pertussis out of this area,” Failla said.