Cases of Whooping Cough are increasing yearly. In Haywood County, Jackson County’s neighbor to the right, nine cases of Whooping Cough have been diagnosed this year alone.
According to Dr. Zach Moore, a respiratory disease epidemiologist for the NC Division of Public Health, “The Haywood County outbreak is currently the largest case of Whooping Cough that we are dealing with.”
Whooping cough, commonly referred to as Pertussis, is caused by a bacteria carried in the lungs. It is spread when a person ingests the air of someone after a coughing spell.
Most infections are spread before symptoms appear. Early symptoms include a sore throat, tiredness, and a sick feeling. The sore throat eventually becomes a dry cough. Over time, phlegm is produced, including intense coughing spells. Whooping cough can last anywhere from three weeks, to an excess of three months if untreated.
Until recently, schools have required that students receive the DTaP vaccine. DTaP is a vaccine against dyptheria, tetanus, and pertussis. In North Carolina, students are not required to receive this vaccine.
Although the whooping cough vaccine wears off and has side effects that include fever and vomiting, adults stand at a higher risk during outbreaks. It is crucial to see a doctor if one experiences long bouts of coughing or if one encounters someone with whooping cough.
Rebecca Lasher, WCU instructor in School Social Work says, “In North Carolina, students are not required to have immunization shots. Parents are required to provide documentation stating that the shots violate their religious views. Notes from a doctor can also excuse a child from immunization shots.”
Anyone who has not been immunized or whose immunizations are out of date it is at risk.
Dr. Moore says, “There has been an increase in Whooping Cough outbreaks all over the United States over the last few years. Outbreaks are popping up more often than we would like. Booster vaccines are encouraged for adults in an effort to deter these kinds of outbreaks.”
Pam Buchanan, Director of WCU’s Heath Center says, “From the University prospective, the outbreak in Haywood County is not affecting us. Whooping cough is a rarity in this age group because most students receive the PTaP booster prior to coming to WCU. We haven’t and do not expect to have to worry about a whooping cough outbreak.”