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Whooping cough on the rise in N.C.

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

Two probable cases of pertussis — also known as “whooping cough” — have been identified in Lincoln County in recent weeks, as state officials warn that reported cases are on the rise in various counties.
Teena Leonard, communicable disease program manager for the Lincoln County Health Department, told the Times-News on Thursday that a thorough contact investigation has been completed and she is awaiting the test results. Post-exposure treatment has been available to those considered high-risk contacts.
Leonard noted that several cases have also been reported in Catawba and Gaston counties.
“We are seeing it in our area,” she said, adding that infants less than one year old are particularly vulnerable.
Pertussis is a highly contagious but preventable respiratory disease that typically lasts at least two weeks, with symptoms ranging from uncontrollable attacks of coughing to vomiting after coughing, without other apparent cause.
It is spread from person to person, usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others. Though it is often associated with infants and small children, pertussis can also be contracted by adults, who are often diagnosed later in the illness.
Between December and the first week of June, state public health officials had tracked 179 cases of whooping cough covering 23 counties; Alamance County alone has seen 122 cases. There were just 126 cases of pertussis reported to the state in all of 2011, according to a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services news release.
Health officials are urging children and other vulnerable people to get vaccinated. The Lincoln County Health Department is providing the Tdap vaccine, which protects against the disease, at no charge.
For more information, visit: http://www.immunize.nc.gov/family/vaccines/pertussis.htm.

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