San Juan Basin Health official warns about pertussis

Whooping cough absent now but state sees increase in cases

La Plata County has escaped the whooping cough epidemic sweeping the country, but it’s no time to celebrate, a San Juan Basin Health Department epidemiologist said Thursday.

“We haven’t seen a great number of cases,” Bari Wagner said. “But it doesn’t mean we won’t.”

La Plata County recorded three cases of pertussis from Jan. 1 to Aug. 25, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman Mark Salley said Thursday.

In the same period, the counties with the most cases were Denver with 126 and Jefferson with 117.

The state as a whole registered 715 cases of pertussis from Jan. 1 to Aug. 11, Salley said. The figure compares with the 2007-11 average of 158 cases for the same period, Salley said.

“We want to protect our residents,” Wagner said. “Infants are particularly susceptible.”

Infants should have shots at 2, 4 and 6 months, between 15 and 18 months and then between 4 and 6 years of age. Wagner said. Children should get a booster shot between 11 and 12 years of age, she said.

Adults need a tetanus shot every 10 years but should substitute a pertussis shot if they’ve never had one, Wagner said. Defense against pertussis is very important for adults such as caregivers of infants, a group that can include grandparents, baby sitters and child care workers.

Health officials haven’t found a specific reason for the pertussis epidemic. They say pertussis is cyclical, peaking every three to five years. Higher peaks and more total cases can be attributed to improved diagnostic tests and decreased immunity.

Pregnant women in the late-second or third trimester, parents with children younger than 1, health-care workers and anyone who has close contact with children should make sure they’re immunized, Wagner said.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract, and it spreads easily in coughs or sneezes. The list of symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and a mild cough. The cough can become as severe as coughing fits.

Mercy Regional Medical Center hasn’t treated anyone for pertussis recently, spokesman David Bruzzese said.

“We haven’t seen any pertussis cases in awhile,” he said.

daler@durangoherald.com

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