By Scott Hammers
Deschutes County Health Services has recorded six cases of pertussis since the start of the year and is encouraging local residents to make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a respiratory illness transmitted through droplets from a cough or sneeze. Symptoms, including a cough strong enough to cause vomiting or break ribs, can last for more than three months.
Pertussis is among the diseases covered by the DTaP series of vaccinations recommended for young children, and the Tdap vaccine given to older children and adults.
Tom Kuhn, community health program manager for Deschutes County, said Friday pertussis tends to come and go in waves. Cases were on the upswing between 2002 and 2005 in Oregon he said, then dropped and have been rising again in the past few years.
“Sometimes we don’t have any cases by this time of year,” Kuhn said. “Last year, we only had three confirmed cases — most of those came later — and here we have six, and it’s only March.”
Deschutes County Health Services’ Bend clinic is offering walk-in Tdap vaccinations for those 11 years and older from 4 to 5 p.m. every Thursday for the uninsured or people on the Oregon Health Plan for $21.96.
“What we’re looking for is just to get a large part of the population vaccinated to prevent pertussis from making a comeback,” Kuhn said.
He said infected individuals can transmit pertussis without showing symptoms. It typically takes seven to 10 days for a person exposed to pertussis to begin having symptoms, though the delay can be as long as six weeks, he said.
Infants and the elderly are particularly susceptible to pertussis, Kuhn said. Infants who have not completed the series of DTaP vaccinations should not be taken to places where they are likely to be exposed to large numbers of people, he said.
Kuhn said the vaccine is ineffective for individuals who have already been diagnosed with pertussis.
Health departments in Crook and Jefferson counties reported they’ve seen no cases of pertussis in recent months.
Tom Machala, director of the Jefferson County Public Health Department, said Jefferson County has an unusually high vaccination rate that may be helping to keep the disease in check.
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