Pertussis cases still being reported

Two confirmed cases of pertussis a week are being reported to San Juan Basin Health Department on average.

The Health Department investigates each case thoroughly to determine close contacts of the individual, as well as recommends follow-up actions when necessary to prevent further spread of the disease. A close contact is defined as face-to-face contact while someone was sneezing or coughing. In addition to speaking with close contacts (usually family members), San Juan Basin Health always contacts the particular school, childcare center, etc. that the confirmed case attends; and all parents are notified that their child may have been exposed to pertussis and what symptoms to watch for.

“The good news is schools are out and individuals are outside a whole lot more in the spring and summer,” said Bari Wagner, disease control nurse for San Juan Basin Health Department. “Since pertussis requires a closer, more sustained contact that some other types of infectious diseases — this means there’s less opportunity for the disease spreading than there was during winter months and while school is in session.”

There were three cases reported in Archuleta since January, including one case since April 1. La Plata County has had 47 confirmed cases since mid December 2008, including 21 cases since April 1. Publicity from the initial outbreak (Dec-early Feb), accompanied by San Juan Basin Health Department’s public education campaign in early spring, created a heightened public awareness about the disease. It also addressed the need for keeping children’s and adults’ immunizations up to date. This resulted in a 63-percent increase in DTaP vaccinations given over the same timeframe from the previous year. “And as parents and health care providers in our community became more aware, they probably began looking for it and testing for it more. Pertussis is an under-diagnosed disease.” said Wagner. “So if you look for it, you’ll find it.”

This may account for the larger numbers of cases here than in the rest of Colorado. This disproportionate number has raised the curiosity of regional and state epidemiologists. They are in the process of reviewing our local cases.

Pertussis is a contagious illness that spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs and another individual breathes in the bacteria. Symptoms usually develop 7 to 10 days after exposure, but can develop from 4 to 21 days after exposure. The disease begins with a cough that progressively becomes more severe until the person develops coughing fits. In between coughing fits, the individual may look and feel fine. Vomiting, breathlessness, a change in facial color, and/or a whooping sound may follow the coughing fits. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should call your physician.

San Juan Basin Health Department recommends you review immunization records of all children, adolescents, and adults in your household to ensure they are up-to-date on their DTaP/Tdap shots. These are combination vaccinations which protect against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis and are required school immunizations. A single dose of Tdap vaccine is recommended for persons 11 to 64 years of age and has the additional benefit of including the Tetanus booster. To schedule an immunization appointment, please call your healthcare provider or San Juan Basin Health at 247-5702.

For additional media questions regarding Colorado pertussis, contact Mark Salley with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Media Relations office at (303) 692-2013.