March 8, 1996
PERTUSSIS OUTBREAK PROMPTS IMMUNIZATION REMINDER
SPRINGFIELD, IL -- An outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in northwestern Illinois has prompted Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state director of public health, to again remind parents of the importance of childhood immunizations.
"Serious diseases and needless suffering can be prevented simply by making sure a child is properly immunized," Dr. Lumpkin said. "Unfortunately, many children do not receive immunizations at all or as soon as they should."
Dr. Lumpkin pointed out a recent survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that in Illinois only 69 percent of the children under 3 years of age have fully completed the recommended vaccination schedule -- four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine; three doses of polio vaccine; and one dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The national average was 75 percent.
Due to state immunization requirements for school entrance, vaccination rates in Illinois reach 97 percent for children entering kindergarten or grade school for the first time.
In the northwestern Illinois counties of Bureau, Henry, Lee and Whiteside, 42 suspect cases of pertussis have been reported since February 26, including 17 between the age of 0 and 5. All of those reporting illness had not been immunized against the disease.
On average, in Illinois there are about 150 cases of pertussis reported annually.
Complications of pertussis can be severe, particularly in children younger than 1 year of age. Although infrequent, complications affecting the brain, such as convulsions and inflammation, may occur, especially in infants, can have long-term effects or cause death.
The Department, through local health departments, has offered antibiotics, for those in northwestern Illinois who are ill and are close contacts of those ill. Physicians and schools in the area have received letters warning them to be on the lookout for pertussis symptoms.
Pertussis is highly contagious and spread to others through coughing and sneezing. 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: runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild, occasional cough.
The cough gradually becomes severe and, after one to two weeks, the patient has spasmodic bursts of numerous, rapid coughs. The characteristic high-pitched "whoop" comes from breathing in after a coughing episode. During such an attack, the patient may turn blue, vomit and become exhausted. Between coughing attacks, the patient usually appears normal.
Coughing attacks occur more frequently at night. The attacks increase in frequency for a couple of weeks, then remain at the same level for two to three weeks, and then gradually decrease. Coughing may last as long as 10 weeks. Recovery is gradual, and coughing episodes can recur with subsequent respiratory infections for months after the onset of pertussis.
Every child should receive pertussis vaccine at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age and another dose at 4 to 6 years old. The vaccine is given in the same shot with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines (DTP). Pertussis-associated disease and death decrease with increasing age and, because vaccine reactions are thought to be more frequent in older age groups, pertussis vaccination is not normally recommended for individuals after their seventh birthday.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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