The Central District Health Department is warning people to be on the lookout for pertussis, also known as whooping cough. The department has seen 14 cases in Ada County in just the last three months, that’s double the number of cases for this time last year. A majority of the cases were in kids and young adults between the ages of 13 and 20.
"A lot of people are surprised to hear us still talking about whooping cough right now because we think of it as something that was eradicated with vaccination,” Dr. Mark Uranga with St. Luke’s said.
However, it’s a lot more common than people think. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, last year the state of Idaho saw 83 confirmed cases. The year before 194.
Christine Myron with the Central District Health Department says about every three to five years they do see an uptick in the number of whooping cough cases.
“We just don't know if this is a normal uptick or if this is kinda a sign of bigger things to come,” Myron said. “We see cases throughout an entire year. So it's not exclusive to the fall and winter months."
Dr. Uranga says the best way to protect yourself against whooping cough is with a vaccination.
“The vaccine is still the best way to prevent whooping cough, but we know with the immunity waning with time, people become susceptible to it even if they're keeping up to date on their vaccines,” Dr. Uranga said.
If you’re wondering when the last time you may have received your pertussis vaccination, think back to the last time you received your tetanus vaccination.
“When tetanus vaccine is updated almost always somebody has been updated with their pertussis because the vaccine that adults get is called tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis,” Dr. Uranga said.
However, with the uptick Ada County is seeing, Dr. Uranga suggests those who are pregnant or plan to be around young children to look into possibly updating their shot.
“Woman should definitely get a whooping cough booster, the Tdap, in the third trimester of pregnancy. All other adults who are going to be around an infant, significantly, grandparents, caregivers, maybe even aunts and uncles, should be sure their whooping cough is up to date, which means they've had it within at least the last 10 years,” Dr. Uranga said.
Some signs of whooping cough are coughing fits (uncontrolled coughing) with more of a dry cough as opposed to coughing up phlegm.
“The treatment for pertussis is relatively straight forward. Actually it's a z-pack, azithromycin, which is given over five days. Although it makes the pertussis go away, the inflammatory response and the cough and everything that goes with pertussis can persist even if you've been effectively treated with antibiotics; and it's not uncommon for people both before diagnosis to have missed a week of school or a week of work and then after diagnosis to take a week to two months to get back to normal,” Dr. Uranga said.
Whooping cough can be contagious depending on how long ago you got your vaccination. Those who’ve gone longer without their Tdap have a higher likelihood of contracting the illness.
Dr. Uranga added though once you’ve been treated, although the cough may persist, after a couple of days your no longer contagious to others.