MILTON - The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County has received a report of a confirmed case of pertussis, commonly known as "whooping cough", in an individual whose immunization status is in question.  The individual's family and other personal contacts have been notified and are receiving prophylaxis administered by their health care providers.  It is the first report of a confirmed case in Santa Rosa County this year.  In 2012 there were two confirmed cases.
 
Pertussis is a highly contagious, bacterial disease marked by severe coughing. It is named after the "whoop" sound children and adults make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell.  The bacteria is found in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person.  Transmission to others occurs during close contact with an infected person, most commonly by airborne droplets of respiratory secretions.
 
Pertussis usually starts with cold or flu-like symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough. These symptoms can last up to 2 weeks and are followed by increasingly severe coughing spells. The coughing attacks may last for many months in the "classic illness" or just a few days in the mild form of the disease. Mild pertussis disease is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of a cold. Usually a prolonged cough is present, but without the "whoop".  Recovery occurs gradually over 2 to 3 weeks. Fever, if present, is usually mild.  Symptoms appear between 6 to 21 days (average 7-10) after exposure to the bacteria.
 
The disease is treated with antibiotics and patients are advised to take all prescribed medication and avoid contact with anyone, particularly small infants and children.  Anyone who is exposed to pertussis should also be given antibiotics to prevent the disease.
 
There are about 10-15 pertussis related deaths each year in the United States.  Pneumonia is the most common complication of pertussis.  Young infants are at highest risk for pertussis-related complications, including seizures, encephalopathy (swelling of the brain), and otitis media (severe ear infection).
 
Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent pertussis.  Most individuals receive the pertussis vaccine as children as part of the recommended series of shots that are required for entry into public school in the state of Florida.  The Centers for Disease control recommends that children be immunized at 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months of age, and 4-6 years of age.  The vaccine is also recommended for post-partum women and any adult who is a caregiver of a child who has not been vaccinated or is too young to have received the vaccine.
 
For additional information on the disease or pertussis vaccine, contact your health care provider.