New cases of whooping cough confirmed on Orcas, San Juan

Two new cases of pertussis have been confirmed in San Juan County in the month of July, according to local health officials.

One of the two cases of pertussis, also known as "whooping cough", is on Orcas Island, the other on San Juan Island. The county has seen sporadic cases of pertussis on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan islands since an outbreak in October of last year on San Juan.

In the wake of these two new cases, county health officials have issued a reminder to islanders to be alert for a cough illness that persists for seven days or more, or if the person suffering that persistent cough has difficulty catching their breath or is gagging after a coughing episode.

According to county Personal Health Services Manager Susan Leff, the most effective strategy to interrupt the transmission of pertussis and to protect infants, who are most at risk in a severe case, is through the timely vaccination all children and with on-time administration of a booster for adolescents and adults.

For information about Pertussis or for low-cost Tdap vaccine, contact your health care provider or San Juan County Health Department at 378-4474. Additional information about pertussis, treatment and prevention is available at,

— The county health department offers the information below to aid in the prevention and spread of whooping cough:

— Normally, only severe cases of pertussis will demonstrate a whoop. In between violent coughing spells, people will appear normal and will be able to go about their daily routine. Coughing spells are frequently at night due to the increased mucus production from the bacteria and can cause broken sleep and exhaustion for everyone in the family.

Listen to the sounds of Pertussis in both a child and adult at

Pertussis affects people of all ages, which is why the Tdap vaccine is recommended for all adults as well as a booster for adolescents at 10-11 years of age. Women who are over 20 weeks pregnant can be vaccinated, and infants can begin the series of vaccinations at two months and complete by six months. Infants need three immunizations and children two booster doses to be protected.

San Juan County Health Department has low cost vaccine available on a sliding scale.

Even adults who do not have direct contact with infants are recommended to get the Tdap vaccine in order to reduce the amount of illness in our community and to prevent the further spread in our community to those who cannot be vaccinated. School age children and adults are the major reservoir for pertussis in our community.

Even individuals who have been vaccinated, can still develop pertussis because the vaccine is only about 70 percent effective. That means seven out of 10 people who get vaccinated will not get pertussis despite being exposed. Those that do get pertussis tend to have milder illnesses and shorter duration of symptoms, and reduced risk of severe outcomes. They are also less infectious to the rest of our community.

Over time, the vaccine effectiveness wears off as does immunity from pertussis illness. County health officials urge parents whose child’s cough is not going away, not to wait, but call a health care provider and ask for a pertussis test. “Trust your instincts” is the recommendation from one family who is struggling with coughing spells of pertussis.

People who may have been exposed to pertussis or have been a close contact of someone who is coughing, should stay home from work and avoid social contacts to avoid spreading the illness. Call your health care provider for an evaluation, ask to be tested, and if prescribed antibiotics, stay home for the full five days of treatment.



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