Health officials issue pertussis alert

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.-There has been confirmation of Pertussis, otherwise known as Whooping Cough, in the Fort Defiance and Sanders, Arizona area. As of to date, there are 15 cases of Whooping Cough mostly in school aged children, adolescents and adults.

Navajo Division of Health Chief Medical Director, Gayle Diné Chacon, MD, said, "The first case appeared in early February and the Tse'hootsooi' Medical Center has been at the fore-front of identifying those infected, exposed, and providing treatment, follow-up and education. The combined efforts and communications between providers, schools, agencies and many individuals will lead to the control of this contagious respiratory illness."

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a serious respiratory infection caused by bacteria. Coughing can be very violent and uncontrollable. Symptoms occur a week following exposure. If the cough persists more than two weeks, you should see a health care provider.

The mode of transmission is airborne when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It spreads from person to person. Exposure leads to coughing, sneezing, runny or stuffed nose feeling. Vomiting may follow a coughing episode. Breathing will be difficult. The "whooping" sound when an infected person tries to breathe is a clear indication of Pertussis. It will last about six weeks.

Infants are most susceptible because they are unvaccinated or have not acquired immunity to their first immunization. Pertussis can cause severe respiratory illness in infants or even death.

While it is very contagious there is vaccination available to prevent pertussis. Children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years are given DTaP (Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussis) vaccine. Children usually get this vaccine five times. Tdap (Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis) vaccine is usually given to children at age 11 or 12 and at intervals of ten years. Booster shots also keep Pertussis under control.

Protocols to follow are: Washing hands or using hand sanitizers, Covering coughs and sneezes, Coughing into the crook of the arm when tissue is not available, Staying home if feeling too ill. Limit attendance of social gatherings (Sports events, dances, shopping areas, hospitals if you are not ill)

If you have any questions, please contact a public health nurse at the local clinic or hospital.

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