An increase in cases of pertussis, more commonly known as “whooping cough,” in some metro Atlanta counties and other states has prompted Coastal Health District officials to remind residents that getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective way to prevent the disease.
Pertussis is a contagious illness that mainly affects the respiratory system and can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children.
“We have some pertussis in our health district every year and this year is no different,” district interim health director Diane Z. Weems, M.D., said. “Although we haven’t seen an unusually high number of cases in coastal Georgia, hearing about just one case serves as an important reminder that both children and adults should be vaccinated.”
To date, there have been four confirmed cases of whooping cough in the Coastal Health District: one in Effingham County, one in Liberty County and two in Camden County. Other counties in the district include Bryan, Chatham, Glynn, Long and McIntosh.
There are two vaccines for pertussis, one for infants and young children and one for older children, adolescents and adults. All health departments have the pertussis vaccine. While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, people who have been vaccinated are less likely to get whooping cough. If they do get the disease, studies show the cough won’t last as long and won’t be as bad, according to health officials.
“Anyone can get whooping cough,” Weems said. “Sometimes people get it and don’t even realize that they have it and are spreading it. That’s why it is so important to get vaccinated.”
People at the greatest risk for getting pertussis include infants younger than 1 year and pregnant women, especially those in their third trimesters. In addition, it’s important for anyone who may expose infants or pregnant women to the disease — such as child care or health care workers — to get vaccinated.
For more information on pertussis, go to cdc.gov/pertussis. For more information on getting vaccinated, call the Bryan County Health Department at 653-4331 in Pembroke or 756-2611 in Richmond Hill.