Pertussis in Washtenaw County

Pertussis or "whooping cough" is being diagnosed in Washtenaw County.

Washtenaw County has had an ongoing outbreak of pertussis since Spring 2013. Washtenaw County Public Health is working closely with all individuals diagnosed with pertussis and their contacts to make recommendations for treatment and prevention. Early identification of cases is very important.

Vaccination is recommended for all eligible persons. Parents and caregivers of infants too young to be vaccinated are especially encouraged to have the Tdap or pertussis-containing vaccine. No vaccine is 100% effective, and some fully-vaccinated persons may become ill. Vaccination and basic prevention of covering the mouth when coughing and washing hands offer the best protection against illness. 

Washtenaw Case Count for 2014

Ages of confirmed and probable cases of pertussis as of 12/3/14:

 <1 yr 1 - 4 yrs 5 - 9 yrs 10 - 14 yrs 15 - 19 yrs 20 yrs and older total
Cases

 6

 19

 19

 23

 20

 16

 103

Hospitalizations 

 2

 1

 1

 0

 0

 0

 4

Graph of Pertussis Cases by Month 

What is pertussis?

Pertussis is a very contagious disease of the respiratory tract caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is also known as “whooping cough” due to the “whoop” sound made when the infected person tries to breathe after hard coughing and choking spells. Children younger than 6 months of age may not have the strength to have a “whoop.” Also, many adults and teenagers with pertussis do not have a classic “whoop.” 

Antibiotics may be recommended if you have been exposed to pertussis. Antibiotics are not recommended without a known exposure or pertussis diagnosis. Please talk with your health care provider or a public health nurse at 734-544-6700 if you need more information. 

Pertussis symptoms include:

  • low grade fever
  • runny nose
  • cough which becomes more severe after 1-2 weeks. Cough often lasts for more than a month.

During coughing attacks, the lips and nails may turn blue for lack of air. Vomiting can occur with severe episodes. In between coughing episodes people may feel and appear fairly healthy. Some report that coughing is worse at night. In children less than 1 year old, complications include pneumonia, convulsions, and, in rare cases, brain damage. The majority of deaths from pertussis occur in infants younger than 2 months of age.

Call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Unusual cough lasting 7 days or more (with or without "whoop")
  • Cough that comes in bursts (intermittent)
  • Vomiting after coughing spells

Why the increase in pertussis cases?  

Likely, there are several reasons:

  • Immunity decreases over time. Teens and adults that have not had a booster dose of Tdap may be more susceptible to illness.
  • Unvaccinated children 
  • The current acellular pertussis vaccine is not as effective as the old whole cell vaccine, and we need much higher vaccination rates to prevent transmission.
  • Changes in testing and increased awareness. A newer test, called a PCR, has become the dominant method of testing, and it is likely we are detecting more cases than we would have in the past.

When to vaccinate?

pertussisimage

Pertussis vaccination is routinely given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age and then at 1 year and 4 years, so that children have 5 doses of vaccine by the time they enter kindergarten. 

A booster dose of Tdap is recommended for teenagers and adults, since immunity wanes over time. Tdap is also recommended for pregnant women, every pregnancy. 

In Michigan, parents are allowed to opt out of vaccinating their children. 




  

 

More information

Washtenaw County Public Health - Pertussis Fact Sheet

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Pertussis Information

FAQs about pertussis and vaccination (CDC)

Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) - Whooping Cough (Pertussis) in Michigan 

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