Whooping cough may begin with symptoms like a common cold, but can become serious and sometimes even deadly. This disease, also known as pertussis, is on the rise in South Carolina.
DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick says that whooping cough is not a disease of the past.
Whooping cough in South Carolina and in the United States is not a dead disease. It is something that some people might think of as being from the 1800’s or from Little House on the Prairie. It is something that is not only alive in America but in South Carolina.
Earlier this month DHEC issued an alert to physicians around the state to expect more cases of this highly contagious respiratory disease, often marked by a high-pitched “whoop” as persons who have it struggle to catch their breath. Myrick says that cases have increased dramatically in the past three years.
The most recent information we’ve been able to gather at this point indicates that we’ve had 81 confirmed or probable cases of pertussis. That doubles the same periods from 2009, 08 and 07. So, it has come back.
Myrick says they can’t be sure why the disease appears to be on the increase.
We’re not really sure why. It could be a number of different reasons. It could include anything from the waning of the vaccine for adolescents and teens to, really, better surveillance by doctors and really better reporting from doctors to us.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that affects adults, adolescents and infants. Myrick says that even if you received the vaccine as a child, you’re not necessarily immune as an adult who can spread the disease to newborns not yet vaccinated.
We recommend getting the booster vaccine for parents of small babies. Because less than six weeks old you cannot get the pertussis vaccine. Obviously if we’re able to provide that buffer with parents and caregivers of young infants getting the vaccine booster for pertussis then that is the best way to protect those too small and too young to get the vaccine.
Symptoms of the disease may start out mild, says Myrick, but soon become severe.
It initially starts as a mild cough, then it’s followed by the severe coughing fits that can even be associated with vomiting. It gets it’s name or it’s lay-name from the “whooping” sound that can occur with these coughing fits.
DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick recommends seeing your doctor about your vaccine history since protection against whooping cough can help prevent the spread of the disease.
It is extremely contagious. We see this spread like wildfire in daycare settings even in primary and elementary schools, even middle schools. It is extremely contagious. That’s why it is a reportable condition in South Carolina: meaning, when a person is diagnosed with pertussis, that health care provider has to let DHEC know within 24 hours.