Whooping cough may be an illness that some think disappeared with fallout shelters, but that is not the case.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, whooping cough — or pertussis — cases are on the rise.
In the 1950s there were around 120,700 new cases of pertussis annually, but by the 1980s the cases dropped to around 1,700. Now, the number of annual cases of pertussis has increased to around 13,000.
Pertussis symptoms mirror that of the common cold — runny nose, congestion, fever and a mild cough — but after one or two weeks, a more severe cough usually begins to develop.
Although the national trend is increasing, local pertussis cases are less prevalent. In 2009, there were 223 pertussis cases in Georgia. So far this year there have only been 104.
“The number of (actual) cases could be higher, but some are not reported because some people do not seek medical care when they are ill,” said Dave Palmer, spokesman for District 2 Public Health, which includes Hall County.
“This is especially true of adults because they usually do not get as sick (with pertussis) as children.”
In the 13-county region that makes up District 2, there were 20 cases of pertussis in 2009. This year there have been around seven cases.
The illness is generally spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes in close proximity to a non-infected person. Infants being held by an ill person are particularly susceptible to catching it.
According to the CDC, pertussis is “most severe for babies” — more than half infected infants must be hospitalized.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent pertussis, CDC officials say.
Children typically get five doses of the pertussis, combination vaccination between ages 2 months and 6 years. The vaccination — DTaP — immunizes children against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
Adolescents and adults should get a booster vaccination every 10 years. The booster vaccination is especially important in helping protect infants from the illness.