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Reno County Whooping Cough Outbreak Growing

Mònica Prats Castellví

Health officials in Reno County, Kansas, are trying to bring an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, under control.

The outbreak began in mid-May with three cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease. Now there are 23 reported cases, according to the Reno County Health Department, in Hutchinson. As of June 2, 134 cases of pertussis had been reported in Kansas this year.

Pertussis causes rapid and violent coughing, and the struggle to inhale while coughing sometimes causes a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects babies and young children, and can be fatal—especially during the first year of life.

The bacteria responsible for the disease are spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Symptoms appear one to three weeks after exposure.

The best defense against pertussis is vaccination. Protection from the childhood vaccination tends to wane over time, but a booster shot is available. Getting the booster shot can protect vulnerable babies, as well as the person being vaccinated.

Those who have been vaccinated may still catch pertussis, but the symptoms will probably be milder than in an unimmunized person. Health officials are asking anyone who’s been coughing for two weeks without explanation to see a doctor.

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

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