Whooping cough surge a concern
As they offer parents their annual immunization message this month, health officials have a special mission because three Piedmont counties have the highest number of whooping cough cases in the state, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Forsyth County has the highest number of cases since January, with 70 confirmed cases. Davidson County is second with 25 confirmed cases and Guilford County is third with 17 confirmed cases.
National health officials say the spread of pertussis, or whooping cough, is on pace to be the worst in 50 years, with nearly 18,000 cases recorded so far this year.
“We have seen resurgences of measles and whooping cough over the past few years. It is crucial for infants and children to get the shots they need,” Merle Green, Guilford County health director, said in April after the last measles report.
Tdap, the vaccine for tetanus-diptheria-pertussis, is required by law for children entering sixth grade in public school and a booster is needed if five or more years have passed since the last dose. Students in public and private schools, as well as those in home-school and non-traditional schools, must get the vaccines. Also, students enrolling in college or university for the first time need the shots.
Students who do not have the required vaccination by the 30th day of school attendance will be suspended until proof of vaccination is provided to the child’s school. The vaccine must be documented on the child’s shot record for school attendance.
Experts have speculated about the increase in cases since last year. Dr. Ward Robinson, Guilford County medical director, then said part of the increase could be attributed to a weaker vaccine. For many, a booster shot can help. Better testing also turns up more cases, and the pertussis bacteria may be changing, according to experts.
New parents, grandparents and people who work with infants also need protection against whooping cough. Adults may not notice symptoms of whooping cough as anything more than a bad cold, but in infants and children, symptoms are more pronounced.
During National Immunization Awareness Month, health officials want everyone to check immunization status.
Whooping cough: The disease causes severe coughing spells, vomiting and disturbed sleep. It can lead to pneumonia and hospitalization due to complications.
Booster: Officials say anyone 19 and older should get the whooping cough vaccine booster because the vaccine weakens over time.
Information: If you are not sure of your current immunization status, contact your health care provider or the Guilford County Department of Public Health.
Appointments: Call (336) 641-3245 for health department appointments. For more general information about immunizations, visit www.guilford.health.org