Omaha Public Radio News
12:25 pm
Wed September 15, 2010

Pertussis cases on the rise in Douglas County

Omaha, NE – Pertussis cases are again on the rise in Douglas County.

In its early stages, the symptoms of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are similar to that of a cold. But the infection can become severe within one to two weeks. 73 cases of pertussis were reported in Douglas County for the year as of September third. Since then, 12 more cases have been reported.

Carol Allensworth of the Douglas County Health Department says pertussis is highly contagious. "Given the fact that these illnesses start pretty insidiously, cold-like symptoms, nagging cough, we see some under-diagnosis, we see misdiagnosis, and we see late diagnosis," Allensworth says. "And what that means is a person who is actively infected with pertussis, actively coughing, can actively transmit it to someone."

Allensworth says about 50 percent of the pertussis cases in Douglas County are in 9 to 11-year-old children. Of those, 74 percent have had all the required immunizations against the infection.

Pertussis is confirmed through lab tests and can be treated with antibiotics.