Whooping cough cases increase statewide
Pertussis cases 2005-12
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:24AM
Health advocates say the high number of whooping cough cases recently in DuPage County mirrors a statewide trend that could be stymied if more people get vaccinated.
As of Aug. 15, the DuPage County Health Department had reported 139 whooping cough cases in 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The county didn’t experience triple-digit case figures until 2011, when the number increased to 268 from 92 in 2010, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Pertussis, the medical term for whooping cough, is a highly-contagious illness characterized by uncontrollable spats of violent coughing.
Like many areas throughout the country, suburban Cook County also is experiencing a surge in pertussis cases at a rate expected to trump last year’s decade-high of 280 cases.
So far this year, the Cook County Department of Public Health has received 336 reports of pertussis as of Aug. 15, according to the IDPH. Chicago, Evanston, Oak Park, Skokie and Stickney Township collect their own data and aren’t included in those figures.
Statewide more than 1,500 cases of whooping cough were recorded in 2011. About 1,200 cases have been reported as of Aug. 15.
Sandy Martell, the interim chief operating officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, said most of the reported ill are 10 to 14, followed by 5 to 9.
Health officials and medical professionals attribute its rise to a variety of factors — including better awareness and thus increased diagnoses of the disease during the past decade.
The waning effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine, particularly in children who received the shot between ages 4 and 6, has also contributed to a spike.
To help curb the disease, the state is requiring those entering sixth and ninth grades to receive a booster dose.
Although most are able to recover from whooping cough with an antibiotic, pertussis could prove fatal to vulnerable populations that lack immunity, particularly babies under 1.
Whooping cough is caused by a germ residing in the mouth, nose and throat that is easily spread through coughing and sneezing, according to the IDPH.
Its symptoms initially mimic those of a common cold — a runny nose and slight fever accompanied by an occasional cough — but increase in severity after one to two weeks.
Rough, spasmodic coughing fits, followed by the high-pitched “whoop” sound, may cause the infected person to turn blue, vomit and become exhausted, according to the IDPH.
DuPage County Health Department spokesman David Hass said reports of pertussis in the county have included those vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Regardless, he said, it is important for children to complete the initial five-dose vaccine series and for those 11 and older to get the booster shot at least once.
Jill Sobolewski, a family medicine specialist at Hinsdale Primary Care Associates who also treats patients at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, said a high immunization rate among area residents has led to fewer pertussis cases.
She suspects some may also be curtailing full development of pertussis by taking antibiotics when they begin experiencing cold-like symptoms that hint of an unspecified infection.
Martell said preventing the spread of respiratory diseases can be done by immunization, isolation, and hygiene habits like covering a cough and frequent hand-washing. It also includes keeping kids home if they are ill.
“Sick children do not learn well,” she said.