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Health department urging vaccinations against pertussis

POSTED: August 6, 2012 9:34 p.m.

An increase in cases of pertussis, more commonly known as “whooping cough,” in some metro Atlanta counties and other states has prompted Coastal Health District officials to remind residents that getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective way to prevent the disease. Pertussis is a very contagious illness that mainly affects the respiratory system and can be very dangerous, especially for babies and young children.


“We have some pertussis in our health district every year, and this year is no different,” said Diane Z. Weems, M.D., interim health director of the Coastal Health District. “Although we haven’t seen an unusually high number of cases in coastal Georgia, hearing about just one case serves as an important reminder that both children and adults should be vaccinated.”


To date, there have been four confirmed cases of whooping cough in the Coastal Health District: one in Effingham County, one in Liberty County and two in Camden County.


There are two vaccines for pertussis, one for infants and young children and one for older children, adolescents, and adults. All health departments have the pertussis vaccine. While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, people who have been vaccinated are less likely to get whooping cough. If they do get the disease, studies show the cough won’t last as long and won’t be as bad.


“Anyone can get whooping cough,” said Weems. “Sometimes people get it and don’t even realize that they have it and are spreading it.That’s why it is so important to get vaccinated.”


People at the greatest risk for getting pertussis include infants under one-year-old and pregnant women (especially in their third trimester).


In addition, it’s important for anyone who may expose infants or pregnant women to the disease such as childcare workers or health care workers, to get vaccinated.


For more information on pertussis, go to www.cdc.gov/pertussis. For more information on getting vaccinated, call or visit your local health department.

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