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3/21/2013 9:53:00 AM
Whooping cough surges in north Mohave County
Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

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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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Article comment by: Hostage by The Bubble Class

Placing us all at risk because some in the media and the no-science fringe doesn't believe in vaccines.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: Chuck Murray

Typical of Mohave County Health Department to pass the blame. As someone who worked at a county health department I see so many things lacking in the health department here. Some people do not want to get vaccinated. If people got all the vaccines that are available they would be on an endless vaccine program. Mohave County Health Department needs a director that is more progressive and informed. Program managers are under qualified and services offered are non existent. Sad that they get funded to do things and than do not do them or just decide not to do them anymore. A health deparment is there to maintain epidemiological data on health risks. I see department not doing that. Change is needed.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

Good information, however it does not explain the upsurge in only one community in the State.

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Article comment by: Dianne R.

I'm surprised that the Mohave County Public Health Department has not heard the news that vaccine resistant strains of Whooping Cough have been found in the United States now, and are blaming the cases on people not being vaccinated against the disease. According to a recent USA Today article, "Even fully vaccinated children — who have received all five doses (of the pertussis vaccine DTaP) recommended by age 4 to 6 — could still be vulnerable to the disease by age 10, according to a September study in The New England Journal of Medicine." If you do a Google search on "vaccine resistant whooping cough" you will find a lot more information on the subject.

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