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Durham Health Officials Report Rise in Pertussis Cases, Urge Vaccination

Free Tdap shot available until October 1 or until supply is exhausted

Post Date:09/06/2012 2:15 PM
DURHAM, N.C. – Recent outbreaks throughout North Carolina and the death of a Forsyth County two month old from pertussis (whooping cough) have Durham County health officials keeping a watchful eye on an increase of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the county in the past month.

Since January, six confirmed cases of pertussis have been reported in Durham County, with several additional cases currently under investigation. During the same period, 216 cases have been confirmed in 44 North Carolina counties, with Alamance reporting the highest with 147 confirmed cases. In 2011, only 126 cases of pertussis were reported to the state.

The continued climb in cases has renewed calls from local and state health officials for all North Carolinians to be immunized against this highly contagious but preventable respiratory disease.

“The number of cases in Durham County represents only a fraction of the actual number,” said Dr. Arlene Sena, Durham County Health Department Medical Director. “Many people contract pertussis, but few are actually tested when they seek medical attention. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that everyone takes the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of pertussis, including getting the Tdap booster shot,” concluded Sena.

Pertussis is spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.

While the disease can be serious at any age, it is life-threatening in newborns and infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated. Adults can also develop whooping cough and are often not diagnosed until later in the illness. Many infants who get whooping cough are infected by caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.

From now until the end of September, or until supplies are exhausted, the Tdap shot is free to anyone at the Durham County Health Department. The Tdap booster shot is recommended for any child 7–10 who did not complete the childhood DTaP vaccination series and anyone 11 and older who has not yet received a Tdap booster. Tdap is particularly recommended for:

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant;
All close contacts of infants under 12 months of age (parents, siblings, grandparents, household contacts, child care providers); and
Anyone with a pre-existing, chronic respiratory disease.
In addition, all sixth grade students are required to receive the Tdap booster shot. The deadline for Durham County sixth grade students on the traditional calendar to receive their Tdap shot is Tuesday, September 25.

For questions and more information about pertussis or the Tdap booster shot, contact the Durham County Health Department at (919) 560-7600.
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