Henderson County Reports Positive Pertussis Result

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The Department of Public Health has received a positive laboratory result of pertussis (also known as whooping cough) for a school-age child that had contact with other people in Henderson County.

The Health Department, the NC Division of Public Health, Henderson County Public Schools, and other community partners are working together to investigate the case and identify individuals that may have been close contacts.

Pertussis is an infection that affects the airways and is easily spread through coughing or sneezing. Pertussis is most commonly spread when a person is within three feet of a pertussis case. The longer the contact exists, the more likely that pertussis will spread. The severe cough can last for weeks or months, sometimes leading to coughing fits and/or vomiting. Anyone can get pertussis, but it can be dangerous for infants and people with weakened immune systems.

The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated. According to NC DHHS, vaccination may lessen the severity of symptoms, prevent serious complications, hospitalizations, and poor outcomes but does not prevent disease in all situations.

If you have symptoms of pertussis, avoid group activities including school and work. Seek medical care with your health care provider.

Early symptoms can last for one-two weeks and usually include:

– Runny nose
– Low-grade fever (generally minimal through the course of the disease)
– Mild, occasional cough
– Apnea: a pause in breathing (in infants)

Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 5-10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as three weeks.

As the holiday season begins, it’s important to take a few simple precautions to protect yourself and loved ones from spreading respiratory diseases such as pertussis or the flu:

– If sneezing or coughing, cover your nose or mouth with a tissue.
– Avoid long-term contact with groups of people—particularly those that are more vulnerable like infants, the elderly, immunosuppressed and pregnant women.
– See your medical provider as soon as possible if coughing and sneezing persists or you develop a fever. To speak with a public health communicable disease nurse, please call (828) 694-6019.

Last year, Henderson County experienced a pertussis outbreak of over 90 cases that began in November 2017 and lasted through early 2018.

For more information on pertussis, visit hendersoncountync.gov/health and click on pertussis.