Kitsap goes on whooping cough alert

With the onset of fall, Kitsap County Health District officials are reminding parents to update their children’s immunization record to combat whooping cough.

There have been 13 confirmed cases of whooping cough in Kitsap County this year — near the average of five to 28 cases yearly seen by health officials in the county over the past few years.

Most of this year’s cases of whooping cough (pertussis) are among infants and pre-school age children, giving health district officials concern.

“The rise in the number of pertussis cases seen in infants and preschool children highlights our community’s need to protect our children with immunizations for pertussis,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, health district director. “Pertussis is potentially deadly for infants. Often, babies catch the disease from family members who may not know they have the disease.”

Health district officials are working with schools and parents of exposed children. The illness hasn’t occurred more than once in any particular school.

The recommendation is to immunize infants at 2, 4 and then 6 months of age, and again between 15 and 18 months of age. Booster shots are to be administered at age 4 and 6 years of age.

Problems can arise because older children and adults could have whooping cough and unknowingly spread the illness to infants and children who have not received inoculations.

By Sept. 20, 2003, there were 494 confirmed cases of whooping cough across the state, a jump from the 364 reported during the same time last year.

The symptoms of whooping cough are distinct.

Health officials say children with whooping cough cough violently, rapidly and repeatedly until the air is gone from their lungs. When the child inhales, there is generally a loud “whooping” noise that escapes, giving the illness its nickname.

Such severe coughing spells can go on for weeks making it difficult for the ill child to eat, drink and breathe.

The Health District’s reminder to immunize children arrives after a similar alert issued by the state Department of Health this summer.

Besides immunizing infants on time, the following are suggestions for protecting children from the disease:

l Anyone with a cough should avoid being around infants. If that’s not possible, cough into a tissue and wash hands thoroughly or wear a surgical mask.

l Anyone with a severe cough should seek medical care.

l Wash hands with soap and water after coughing anytime you are going to pick up a young child.

l Health officials say because there is no vaccine available for those 7 years old or older, it’s important for infants and younger children to be fully vaccinated on schedule and for older children and adults.

The health district, which urges parents to always bring immunization records to the doctor or clinic that administers the shots, has four clinics in Kitsap County. The shots cost $15.60, but a sliding fee scale is also in effect.

The Bremerton clinic, located on Austin Drive, is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, call the Health District at (360) 337-5235.

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