Whooping cough cases emphasize immunization | SierraSun.com

Whooping cough cases emphasize immunization

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun

Eleven cases of whooping cough have been confirmed by the Nevada County Public Health Department as of Thursday, highlighting the importance of childhood immunization.

The cases of whooping cough have been connected to western Nevada County students ages 6 to 13 years old, with no cases of whooping cough reported in the Truckee area. However, the reports of the bacterial disease ” known as pertussis ” emphasize the need for immunization among school-age children.

As part of the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, an effort is ongoing in Nevada County to ensure children ages 5 and under are immunized before beginning school, said Nevada County Fifth District Supervisor Ted Owens.

The county is also moving forward with a program to get children older than 5 immunized, Owens said, teaming up with local Rotary clubs in order to raise money for the costs of necessary vaccines. If money is a concern, Owens said, “the county will waive the $10 fee for immunization.”

In western Nevada County some parents choose to not have their children vaccinated for religious beliefs, and in eastern Nevada County, due to language barriers, a large portion of the population is not aware of available health services in the area, Owens said.

In 2005, from a sample population of 205 kindergarten students in Truckee, 79 percent of the students had complete immunization coverage, said Remy Lindsey, a public health nurse with the Nevada County Public Health Department. Students can waive complete immunization coverage with “conditional admission,” Lindsey said, “and that is our biggest problem in schools.”

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As a preventative health measure, Nevada County schools have been implementing a “one cough and you’re out” policy to send children home from school if they are sick, Owens said.

Whooping cough is a highly infectious disease spread through the air when someone coughs. For youngsters playing ball on the playground while nursing a cold and runny nose, bacteria can spread easily from one child to another through physical contact, Lindsey said.

Symptoms of whooping cough start like those of a common cold but then progresses into “severe coughing when you can’t catch your breath,” Lindsey said. Those diagnosed with whooping cough are typically given antibiotics for five days to eliminate the possibility of contagion. However, a person can be sick for up to three months, she said. About 5,000 to 7,000 cases of whooping cough are reported every year, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

A new version of the Tdap vaccine used to boost immunity against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria is now available, Lindsey said. She said doctors will be giving the vaccine to people ages 11 and up, even to those who had the whooping cough vaccine as children, since more adult cases of whooping cough have been reported.

The Tahoe WoRX and Health Services clinic at Tahoe Forest Hospital does not currently have the new Tdap vaccine available, said Laurel Holmer, a infectious control practitioner at the clinic. Holmer said she recommended people contact their primary care doctors for more information about the whooping cough vaccine or call the Nevada County Public Health Department at 265-1450.