Whooping cough on the rise in Virginia

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

State health officials are stressing the urgent need for on-time vaccinations to ward against the whooping cough.

While there’s been only one reported case in Suffolk, 233 instances of pertussis were reported to the state health department this year, as compared to 91 last year, and 140 in 2002.

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&uot;Parents and caregivers should be sure that children receive all pertussis vaccinations on-time according to the recommended schedule in order to ensure the best protection from whooping cough,&uot; said State Health Commissioner Dr. Robert B. Stroube. &uot;If a child is not properly vaccinated, they can become infected from exposure to adults who are sick with the illness.&uot;

Several factors could be impacting the sharp rise in whooping cough cases statewide, according to Sandra Sommer, the division’s quality assurance coordinator.

&uot;There is an increase in the awareness of the mild disease,&uot; said Sommer, and the medical community is paying closer attention to &uot;persistent, unexplained coughs.&uot; There’s also a wider availability of testing, she added, &uot;so that we can diagnose with some confidence a little more quickly.&uot;

Taking steps to avoid the whooping cough largely boils down to hygienic issues, said Sommer, including covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

In cases of a persistent cough, individuals should seek the care of a physician, Sommer added.

Antibiotics are most commonly used to slow the spread of disease and lessen the contagious period. Any child under seven should be appropriately vaccinated.