Skip navigation links

Call us directly: (641) 464-0691

109 W. Madison Mt. Ayr, IA 50854 View Location

May 4

Iowa Pertussis Numbers on the Rise

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), over 150 people with pertussis (whooping cough) have been reported so far in 2012. This is 121% over the number of cases reported at this time in 2011. The actual number of cases is probably much higher, because most adults with pertussis are not diagnosed or reported. While children ages 5 to 14 years make up the bulk of reported cases, it’s important to note that adults are considered the primary ‘spreaders’ of the disease.

“Children receive pertussis vaccine series beginning at 6 months of age, and are recommended to get a booster dose of pertussis vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Most adults haven’t had a pertussis vaccination since childhood so they probably have no immunity left to pertussis. When they get the disease, their symptoms are milder and are often mistaken for a lingering cough, but they still spread the disease to others.”

Thus, it’s especially important that adults who are around children receive pertussis-containing vaccine because they can spread the disease to infants and young children who are too young to be fully immunized; this is called cocooning – providing a cocoon of safety around the child who cannot be vaccinated or is not old enough to be fully vaccinated. In infants, pertussis can be severe and even deadly. Adults can receive the Tdap shot (the adult “tetanus booster” that also contains pertussis vaccine). The State Hygienic Laboratory provides testing for appropriate symptomatic patients.

The most common symptoms of pertussis in children are fits of coughing sometimes followed by vomiting or a ‘whooping’ sound as air is inhaled. Adults also cough, but usually the cough is not as severe, and the “whoop” is not heard. This is why many adults do not realize they have pertussis.
While taking antibiotics will treat the infection and prevent an individual from spreading the disease any further, the cough may continue for weeks while the irritated airways completely heal.