Pertussis Outbreak Hits Cowlitz County

In recent weeks Cowlitz County has experienced a significant amount of pertussis.  This continues a trend seen locally in 2011, when the number of pertussis cases was up nearly 6-fold over 2010.  Pertussis can be life threatening for infants, especially newborns.  Due to the ongoing rise of pertussis, PeaceHealth St. John is implementing heightened infection control measures to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable populations.  Pertussis is highly contagious and is easily spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Effective immediately, PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center is observing the following infection control measures:
  1. Visitors should NOT visit if showing signs or symptoms of pertussis
  2. Healthcare workers should NOT work if sick.
  3. Visitors or healthcare workers displaying symptoms of pertussis may be asked to leave the Medical Center
  4. Patients showing signs of pertussis may be placed in droplet isolation
About Pertussis:

Symptoms of pertussis are: runny nose, low-grade fever, and cough.

Pertussis is also known as “whooping cough” because of the “whooping” sound that is made when patient gasps for air after a fit of coughing.

  1. Pertussis is transmitted from person to person by droplets. Pertussis can only be transmitted when an infected person is symptomatic – it is not transmitted prior to symptom onset.
  2. Coughing fits due to pertussis infection can last for 10 weeks or more – it is sometimes referred to as the “100 day cough.”
  3. Pertussis can cause serious illness in infants, children, and adults, and can be life threatening.  More than half of infants less than one year of age who contract pertussis must be hospitalized.
  4. The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination with DTaP for infants and children, and with Tdap for pre-teens, teens, and adults.
  5. Vaccinated children and adults can become infected with and transmit pertussis; however, disease is less likely to be severe.
  6. Vaccination of pre-teens, teens, and adults with Tdap is especially important for families with newborn infants.
  7. Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics, which are used to control the symptoms and to prevent infected people from spreading the disease.
  8. From 1940-1945, before the pertussis vaccine was widely used, 175,000 Americans were infected annually.  Today, with high vaccine rates, 1000 to 25000 people in the U.S. are infected each year, with few deaths.