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FOR RELEASE: August 15, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams

Pertussis on the Rise in Oklahoma

An increase in the reported cases of whooping cough in the state has prompted the Oklahoma State Department of Health and its local county health departments to focus on protecting infants from the disease.

“Parents should keep their infants away from people who have persistent coughs and make sure infants and other young children are vaccinated against whooping cough,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

Thus far in 2002, 68 cases of whooping cough, also called pertussis, have been reported in Oklahoma. At this point last year, only 21 cases had been reported. The total number of cases reported in 2001 was 43, with 60 cases reported in 2000. One pertussis-related death, in an infant, has been reported this year in Oklahoma.

In neighboring states, Texas has reported over 400 cases of whooping cough, Arkansas has reported 409 cases in 2002, and New Mexico over 120.

Whooping cough is a bacterial respiratory illness spread from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. The illness is most likely to be spread to infants in households where older children, teenagers and adults may transmit the disease.

Not everyone with a cough will have whooping cough. This disease is characterized by a persistent cough lasting at least two weeks or longer with one of the following conditions: coughing fits, a whoop (a high-pitched sound made when breathing in after a coughing fit), or vomiting following coughing.

Older children, teenagers and adults usually have milder cases of whooping cough. In young children and infants, this disease may cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. This is why it is so important to get babies vaccinated on time.

Vaccination against whooping cough includes a series of four doses and a fifth booster dose of DTaP, a combination vaccine that also protects against diphtheria and tetanus. The first dose should be given at 2 months of age, with subsequent doses at 4 months, 6 months, and 15 to 18 months of age, with the booster dose at 4 years. The vaccine is not licensed for those age 7 years and older. Because the vaccine’s effectiveness may diminish after a few years, whooping cough may still occur in persons who have been previously vaccinated. For more information on whooping cough, or to obtain vaccinations for your children, contact your local county health department or health care provider.


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