Whooping cough cases at state wrestling tournament — other cases likely

The state Department of Health is working with local health agencies, school nurses, and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) (www.wiaa.com) to notify attendees that they may have been exposed to whooping cough.

Pertussis (http://www.doh.wa.gov/EHSPHL/factsheet/pertussis.htm) is highly contagious and spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. Initial symptoms are similar to the common cold — sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough may become severe and can develop into coughing spells followed by a high-pitched whoop. An infected person can spread the disease from the beginning of the cold-like symptoms to three weeks after the coughing episodes start. Antibiotics can reduce the contagious period.

Anyone who attended the tournament and now has cold symptoms and a cough, or is in close contact with someone who has whooping cough, should contact a health care provider. You may be asked to wear a mask in the doctor’s office to help prevent spreading the disease. People who have or may have pertussis should stay away from babies, young children, and pregnant women until treated.

The best way to prevent pertussis is to be properly vaccinated. Whooping cough vaccines are recommended for children and adults. Teens and adults often get a milder form of whooping cough, but can spread the disease to babies and young children who may not be fully protected, and are at greater risk of serious complications. Children should get five vaccinations between two months of age and when they start school. A whooping cough booster shot is now available and recommended for people 11-64.

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For information on preventing whooping cough contact your local health agency (www.doh.wa.gov/LHJMap/LHJMap.htm) or the Department of Health’s Immunization Program (www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/Immunize) at 360-236-3595. More information on pertussis is available online (www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/Immunize/diseases/pertussis).