DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Local doctors are seeing an uptick in a highly contagious respiratory illness once thought eradicated or at least contained: pertussis, also known as “whooping cough.”
There have been 27 reported cases in Montgomery County in 2023 already, more than double the reported cases in all of 2022.
Doctors say that during this time of the year, children and adults simply have fewer opportunities to get outside, and when we’re in close quarters like the office or a classroom, sickness can spread much more rapidly.
Dr. Kendal Ayers, the Emergency Department Medical Director at Mercy Health, says if your child is developing pertussis, they may have congestion, runny nose and a fever. In about seven days, that develops into a worsening cough.
“Especially in younger children,” said Dr. Ayers. “They will get coughing to the point of them vomiting with the coughing fit. That’s one of the things that really kind of throws a red flag up for us.”
Ayers says not having an updated Tdap vaccination poses a big risk to children whose lungs are not strong enough to fight back against highly contagious respiratory illnesses.
“And children under 12 months, it can be fatal,” said Ayers. “There are more fatalities in that age group than any other age group just because of how it affects the lungs.”
She recommends that parents with newborns re-evaluate their vaccination history, along with everyone else in the home.
Dr. Nancy Pook, head of Emergency Services at Kettering Health, stresses that being vaccinated can not only help protect young children, but also older kids and adults. She says that when vaccinated people older than 6 get sick, they’re likely to experience less severe symptoms.
“Remember that vaccines don’t necessarily prevent oral illness,” says Dr. Pook, “but it can take it from wild disease to a mild disease. That’s important.”
Dan Suffoletto, with Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County, says people should do their part to stop sickness from spreading through local communities.
“It’s very important no matter what the sickness is when you’re sick to stay home and stay away from other people,” says Suffoletto, “because it’s that gathering with other people, being close to people that helps spread those diseases.”
If your child is showing symptoms of what you believe is whooping cough, they can be tested at a local healthcare provider with a simple nasal swab.