For many, Whooping cough is one of the most disturbing sounds a person can hear. It's a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes an uncontrollable, violent cough lasting several weeks or even months, which can lead to serious complications. And the number of cases across the country has been on the rise. As our Katie Gibas reports, Onondaga County officials say cases there have quadrupled since this time last year and in Broome County, there have been 65 cases so far this year, nearly double the state rate.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- That unmistakable sound is Whooping cough. If left untreated, the highly contagious disease can cause dehydration, seizures and even death.
"In a young child, you can sort of tell they have it, but adults get it as well. And you don't see those same symptoms, so often, adults might not be getting treated or they might be spreading it and not even aware they have it," said Karyn Johnson, an Onondaga County Public Health Educator.
And that seems to be happening more now. There's been an increase in the number of cases across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 29,000 cases and 14 deaths so far this year. That's already up more than 50 percent over last year's total.
"People do need to be concerned if they have a young baby or if they have contact with young infants, that they need to make sure they're protecting the babies as well as themselves," said Johnson.
Experts say they see a jump in cases every three years. But they're not exactly sure why. The disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught in time. But health professionals say prevention is key.
"It's more likely to be spread through coughing so common prevention measures, like covering your cough, staying home when you're sick, good hand washing and good hygiene is very important, but the vaccine is really the best protection," said Johnson.
In recent years, doctors have found that the vaccine doesn't last forever like originally thought. Now, it is combined with the tetanus shot. Boosters are recommended every ten years.
"A lot of people aren't aware that they're supposed to be getting boosters. I think that is sort of adding to our numbers at this point," said Johnson.
Experts say the number and severity of cases are still well below the pre-vaccine days. But with the jump in cases, they remind people to take personal precautions to keep themselves and their families safe.
Like you heard, the vaccine is the best prevention method. In the past couple of years, recommendations have changed. Now experts say pregnant women should get the shot during the second trimester if they haven't gotten it in a while. They say the vaccine will protect both the mother and baby during pregnancy. It will also keep the baby safe immediately after birth until they get their own vaccine at two months old.
For more information:
Pertussis fact sheet
Pertussis information from CDC
Statewide for 2012 to date: 2,168 cases, incidence rate 19.5 cases per 100,000 population
Onondaga: 74 cases, incidence rate 16.2 cases per 100,000 population
Other CNY counties:
Broome: 65 cases, incidence 33.3 cases per 100,000 population
Cayuga: 6 cases, incidence 7.4 cases per 100,000 population
Chenango: 8 cases, incidence 15.5 cases per 100,000 population
Cortland: 1 case, incidence 2.1 cases per 100,000 population
Herkimer: 1 case, incidence 1.6 cases per 100,000 population
Jefferson: 32 cases, incidence 27.5 cases per 100,000 population
Lewis: 0 cases
Madison: 11 cases, incidence 15.6 cases per 100,000 population
Oneida: 26 cases, incidence 11.1 cases per 100,000 population
Oswego: 2 cases, incidence 1.6 cases per 100,000 population
St. Lawrence: 1 case, incidence 0.9 cases per 100,000 population
Tioga: 1 case, incidence 1.9 cases per 100,000 population
Tompkins: 3 cases, incidence 3 cases per 100,000 population