Hack, hack... Idaho County sees whooping cough case

Peg Gehring

North Central District Health Department last week confirmed one case of pertussis in Idaho County, said Peg Gehring, nurse practitioner, St. Mary’s Hospital and Clinics.

“That’s more commonly known as whooping cough,” Gehring added.

Gehring said those who’ve never been vaccinated are the ones who should be the most concerned. This includes children too young to be vaccinated.

“For children about 18 months and younger, whooping cough can be severe,” she said, explaining the virus makes the bronchial tubes swell. “Young children have such tiny bronchial tubes that this makes it very difficult to breathe – and they can even stop breathing.”

Whooping cough is spread by direct respiratory contact (coughs and sneezes). Symptoms at the onset start with a cold-like runny nose, low grade fever and occasional cough.

“As it progresses, this escalates to numerous rapid cough spasms or uncontrollable burst of coughs, usually most severe at night time,” Gehring explained. When a person begins gasping for breath between the coughs, a “whooping” sound is created; thus the nickname.

The cough can last one to six weeks. A person who is diagnosed should refrain from household contact for about five days after they start antibiotic treatment. The test is a nose swab at the doctor’s office.

“It is a bacterial infection and taking a round of antibiotics can help a person some and also help them not be as likely to spread it,” Gehring said.

Those who are immunized can still get pertussis, she said; however, their cases should be much more mild than for someone who is unimmunized.

“The best bet is to be vaccinated,” she said.

Those who think they may have whooping cough should see a doctor as soon as possible.

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