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Whooping cough surges in north Mohave County

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Public Health Department is keeping an eye on an outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, in the Arizona Strip area north of the Grand Canyon.

"126 cases have been reported to the department since January 2012," said Mohave County Epidemiologist Anna Scherzer. The county usually gets one or two cases a year.

"We believe a large number of the cases are due to some people not being vaccinated against the disease," she said.

The department has not seen an increase in cases in the rest of the county.

Pertussis is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing, she said. Symptoms can mimic those of a normal cold, such as a runny nose, sneezing and coughing. The only difference is that pertussis can stick around for weeks.

"It's like a bad cough you can't get rid of," Scherzer said. "There are some people that call it the 100-day cough."

That means it could be months before the disease finally works its way out of the community, she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the disease got the nickname whooping cough because some patients experience such severe coughing fits that they can't catch their breath, leading to a whooping noise as they try to inhale.

Some adults with the disease have actually broken ribs due to coughing, Scherzer said. People who catch the disease can be contagious for at least three weeks after showing symptoms, she said. The disease is caused by a bacteria and can be treated and prevented by antibiotics.

The disease can also cause secondary infections such as pneumonia and encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which can be deadly, especially to infants and small children.

However, the earliest a child can get the vaccine for the disease is at 2 months old, Scherzer said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services recommends that children get five doses of the DTaP vaccine before they turn 7.

The DTaP vaccine also includes vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus. It is also recommended that teens get a booster shot of the vaccine between 11 and 18 years of age.

Adults should get one if they haven't had a dose of the vaccine in the last 10 years, especially if they are living with an infant or expectant mother.


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