The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is issuing this update regarding the ongoing pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in western Kent County, Delaware. To date, 48 cases of pertussis have been identified from 16 families.
DPH is investigating both confirmed and suspected cases of pertussis in western Kent County, particularly among persons in the Amish community. DPH is asking physicians and other health care providers to consider pertussis when evaluating a patient with an acute cough illness characterized by cough or cough with paroxysms, “whoop,” or post-tussive gagging/vomiting. Diagnosis of suspect pertussis should be verified with laboratory testing following the guidelines in the “Recommendations” section below. This will allow appropriate DPH follow-up of patients and the initiation of interventions to prevent further spread of the disease.
Pertussis is rapidly reportable in Delaware under the Regulations for Control of Communicable and other Disease Conditions. Report known or suspected cases of pertussis promptly to the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156 or fax to (302) 223-1540.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly communicable infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Bordetella Pertussis. Pertussis is characterized by coughing paroxysms that are often followed by a characteristic “whoop” sound and/or post-tussive vomiting. The incubation period is about 7-10 days (with a possible range of 4-21 days). Illness onset is insidious with symptoms similar to those of a minor respiratory infection (catarrhal period). During the first 1-2 weeks of illness, coryza with an intermittent non-productive cough is common; this period is followed by episodes of paroxysmal coughing which frequently last for several weeks (paroxysmal period). Pertussis may occur among persons of any age, including teens and adults who were vaccinated only at a young age, although infants aged less than one year have the highest rates of complications.
In 2004-2005, Delaware experienced a significant pertussis outbreak. While at this point, it does not appear that this outbreak is of the same magnitude, this situation can change rapidly and it is important that appropriate steps are taken to prevent further dissemination. A summary of the 2004/05 outbreak is available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5530a1.htm
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