By Ron VandenBoom
The Hill County Health Department reported Friday that a 12-year-old Helena patient was confirmed to have contracted a case of pertussis, or whooping cough as it is more commonly known.
The department has also confirmed that several suspected cases of the disease have been reported in Hill County, but none have been confirmed at this time because the patients were on antibiotics which makes confirmation difficult. More than 100 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the northern counties of the Idaho panhandle.
Cindy Smith, a R. N. with the Health Department, said perrtussis begins with mild upper respiratory tract symptoms and can progress to severe paroxysms of cough, often characterized by a whooping sound. This can be followed by vomiting.
Fever is absent or minimal and the symptoms generally decrease over time.
Unrecognized or untreated, pertussis can lead to seizures, pneumonia, a swelling of the brain and other serious complications. In rare cases it can lead to death.
The Disease in infants younger than 6 months may be atypical with apnea being a common manifestation and the whoop is often absent. Older children and adults also can have atypical manifestations, with persistent cough and no whoop.
The disease is most severe when it occurs during the first year of life, but it can infect adults and adolescents with incomplete immunization and waning immunity.
It will generally run its course in 6-10 weeks.
Transmission occurs via respiratory tract secretions of patients with the disease and it is possible for adults that have mild or atypical symptoms to infect children.
Vaccination is the best protection against the disease, but is only available for children under 7-years-old.
The best protection, Smith said, is for your children to adhere to the recommended vaccination schedule.
Smith encourages parents whose children have a persistent cough that lasts for more than two weeks to contact their health care provider.
For more information call the Hill County Health Department at 265-5481.