Press Release

November 19, 2008


State Public Health Director reminds of cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene

Increased numbers of pertussis cases reported in some Illinois counties  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As we enter flu season, and with reports of increased number of pertussis cases in some Illinois counties, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold is reminding people of the importance of vaccinations and preventive measures that should be used to avoid getting sick.

“Some northern Illinois counties are reporting an increased number of pertussis, or whooping cough, cases this year compared to 2007. This is a good reminder why vaccinations are so important,” said Dr. Arnold. “It’s also important to do simple things like cover your mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, try to cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and warm water will also prevent the spread of disease. Doing all these things will help keep you and your loved ones healthy.”

Lake County and Chicago are reporting an increased number of pertussis cases this year while other counties, including Cook, Lake, McHenry, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago, are reporting clusters of pertussis cases in school aged children.

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is highly contagious and is easily spread from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. An infected person is contagious from just before the onset of symptoms and up to three weeks after symptoms start.

Symptoms usually appear five to 10 days after exposure, but can take as long as 21 days. The first symptoms are similar to those of a common cold - a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild, occasional cough. The cough gradually becomes severe and, after a week or two, the patient has bursts of numerous, rapid coughs. The characteristic high-pitched "whoop," which is more common in children, comes from breathing in after a coughing episode. Pertussis is usually treated with a multi-day course of appropriate antibiotics.

Every child should get pertussis vaccine at two, four, six and 15 months of age and another dose at four to six years of age. This vaccine is given in the same shot with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines and is required for child care and school attendance.

Patients with pertussis should not go to day care, school, work or public gatherings until at least five days after starting an antibiotic. Treatment is also recommended for anyone who has close contact with the patient.

Keeping up to date on vaccinations and practicing good health hygiene will help prevent the spread of pertussis, flu and other illnesses.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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