Pertussis case confirmed in Hamilton County

Health care professionals confirmed a case of pertussis in Hamilton County on Wednesday.

The person affected is now receiving treatment, reported health care professionals. The treatment for pertussis is prescribed antibiotics and

after the first five days, a person can resume normal activities.

Pertussis is a disease caused by severe spells of coughing. The disease is also known as whooping cough because of the high-pitched whooping sound

made when a person tries to catch one’s breath during coughing spells. Untreated, the disease can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, inflammation of

the brain and sometimes death, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The disease is a health risk for infants under the age of six months as they have not been fully immunized, explained Shelby Kroona, Director

of the Hamilton County Health Department.

According to the IDPH, at onset the symptoms of pertussis are similar to those of the common cold. They include a runny nose, nasal congestion,

sneezing, red and watery eyes, a mild fever and a dry cough. Within two weeks, the symptoms worsen and a severe cough develops. This cough might

become a series of violent coughs which make it hard to breathe. The coughing is usually more severe at night.

The cough may be productive and bring up a thick discharge or it may lead to vomiting.

Bacteria is the culprit for the disease and it travels on the droplets from other people’s coughs and sneezes. Once inhaled into the lungs, it

produces a toxin which prevents the lungs from clearing out fluids and germs with a productive cough. A thick mucus accumulates in the airways and

results in the uncontrollable cough.

Prevention includes being current on vaccinations, frequent handwashing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding others

when coughing.

“Or just stay home when you’re sick,” said HCHD director Kroona.

The IDPH cautions that infants under the age of six months may not develop a whoop but instead temporarily stop breathing or develop a blush to

their skin.

In older children and adults, pertussis may resemble the symptoms of bronchitis or asthma.

In elderly adults, there may be the possibility that instead of the presence of the characteristic whoop, a long lasting cough may develop,

explained Kroona.

“In older adults, they develop what is called the ‘100 Day Cough,'” said Kroona.

While state and county officials try to track the onset of communicable diseases, identifying the source of the first case includes many variables,

she said.

Kroona said there is a theory that older adults, who have not recently been immunized, contract the disease. Undiagnosed, they may become carriers

and spread the disease to children.

Kroona noted that because the onset of pertussis is similar to the common cold, it is hard to know if you are ill.

“It’s not like you have a little fever and you go to bed,” she said. “People go out and do things, not knowing that potentially, their cough is


Wednesday’s confirmation is not the first reported case of pertussis in Hamilton County this year, said Kroona, who noted that statewide, Iowa has

seen more confirmed cases of pertussis in recent years.

The most current data for recorded cases was in 2012, said Kroona. According to the IDPH, the majority of those cases were reported in

Fayette, Howard, Cerro Gordo and Worth counties. Outbreaks also occurred in the metropolitan centers of Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.

Nationwide, Kroona noted that health department officials have reported a resurgence of many vaccine-preventable diseases.

“On the East and West coasts, there is a new phenomena among young parents that haven’t seen children with whooping cough or measles,” said

Kroona of the choice not to have children vaccinated. “They don’t realize what it was like back then (when children contracted or died from these


Although most people received the vaccination for pertussis as an infant, protection wears off within 5-10 years, explained Kroona. So a

teenager who received immunizations as an infant may then be susceptible to the disease as a young adult.

After the initial four doses in infancy, a single dose of the Tdap booster should be repeated every ten years, said Kroona.

Tdap is the combined vaccination for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

While these boosters need to be continued throughout one’s lifetime, it is an important safeguard that parents and grandparents with

infants receive the boosters, explained Kroona.

In 2013, the newly adopted provision of the Iowa code required that all students entering the seventh grade receive a Tdap booster, explained


In accordance with the Iowa law, the HCHD has been proactive in keeping children current on their vaccinations by conducting immunization clinics at

area schools, explained Kroona.

Last year, the HCHD conducted an immunization clinic at Northeast Hamilton schools for all students in 5th-12th grade, said Kroona. Earlier

this year, a vaccination clinic was held at Webster City Middle School.

Kroona noted that vaccinations are available by appointment every Wednesday at the Hamilton County Department of Health Clinic, located at 820

James Street.

To schedule an appointment, call 832-9565.