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County health official: Three pertussis cases in San Juans

San Juan County Health Official Dr. Frank James reports that the county Health Department has received reports of three local cases of pertussis -- also known as whooping cough -- this month.

He urges all county residents to make sure that their vaccinations are up to date and asks anyone with a cough or cold-like symptoms to take extra precautions to avoid contact with young children.

California is now dealing with a growing outbreak of the disease, reporting nearly 1,500 cases and five deaths. All of those fatal California cases were in children younger than three months of age – too young to be fully protected by vaccine.

Children are most susceptible to pertussis, showing symptoms of spasmodic coughing, whooping and vomiting. The disease is considered highly communicable, but Frank said a vaccine does provide protection. He recommends a series of five vaccinations to provide protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The first shots are given beginning at two months of age and are completed between ages 4 and 6.

Protection from those initial vaccinations fades over time, so health officials say anyone over the age of 11 who has not had a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster shot, should get one as soon as possible. In recent years, San Juan County has had to deal with pertussis cases that spread from school children to parents and then through workplaces, leading to lost days from work. Some people have reported broken ribs from the spasms of coughing.

Adequate stocks of the vaccine are available from health care professionals and the San Juan County Health Department.

The incidence of pertussis has increased steadily in the U.S. since the 1980s, and epidemics have occurred every three to five years. The most recent epidemic occurred in 2005 when more than 25,000 cases were reported nationwide.

Persons with concerns about pertussis should contact their health care provider or the San Juan County Health Department, 378-4474. Report all possible cases to the Health Department, 378-4474 during business hours or 360-201-2505 after hours.

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