According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, is on the rise in the United States. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department issued a statement Wednesday afternoon indicating a significant increase in the local area as well.
Although the 21 confirmed local cases of whooping cough are nowhere near the epidemic declared in Washington state earlier this year, officials said it definitely reflects the current national trend where outbreaks have been reported in a majority of states.
The disease is highly contagious, treated with antibiotics and mostly avoided with proper vaccinations, officials said.
“While no vaccination is 100 percent effective, the best protection against pertussis is vaccination,” according to a press release.
Since the effectiveness of childhood vaccinations decreases over time, officials suggest adolescents and adults be revaccinated, even if they were completely vaccinated as children.
Symptoms include uncontrollable and violent coughing that can last several months. The disease is spread through direct contact with those who are infected. Pertussis can be very serious in infants and very young children, who often become infected by older family members who may have a mild or unrecognized case, officials said.
Sixteen of the 21 cases in Hamilton County have been in children younger than 6 years old. Life-threatening complications include pneumonia, seizures, apnea, inflammation of the brain and death.
The CDC estimates approximately 300,000 people die each year from whooping cough. Across the globe, there is thought to be an estimated 30 to 50 million cases.
As of this month, 46 states and Washington, D.C., have reported increases in the disease, according to the CDC.
The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed 86 cases of whooping cough statewide as of July, according to a Nashville news report. Doctors in the Atlanta area are seeing twice as many cases, sources said.
In Washington state, where the secretary of health declared an epidemic in April, it was only a year ago when less than 1,000 cases were reported. In the first six months of this year, the reported number of cases in Washington reached 2,540, a 1,300 percent increase from the same time last year. That is the highest number of cases reported in 70 years, according to the CDC.
Local health officials said that persons with symptoms of pertussis should contact their medical providers as soon as possible. Antibiotics can be used to treat the symptoms for the patient as well as be administered to those who have come into close contact with the patient, as a means to prevent the spread of the disease.
Those diagnosed should stay home and out of close contact with others, particularly infants and young children.