Pertussis outbreak in King County

King County is experiencing a widespread pertussis outbreak, with 100 confirmed cases reported in the first 3 months of 2012.

A county health representative says that's the highest number reported for this time of year in the past decade and more than the reports received in all of last year.

Pertussis is a bacterial illness that may begin with symptoms similar to the common cold, such as runny nose, scratchy throat or cough. The cough then gets worse over one to two weeks. Fever is usually mild or absent.

Most children and adults don’t get seriously ill, but pertussis can be life-threatening for infants. Last year, two infants in Washington state died of pertussis, according to a county health representative.

Experts say there are many things the community can to do protect their family and neighbors from contracting pertussis:

- Ensure everyone in the family is up-to-date on shots. There is a one-time pertussis booster shot  all teens and adults can receive.

- Keep coughing people away from babies and pregnant women

- See a doctor for symptoms of pertussis, which include: coughing one week or more, uncontrollable fits of coughing, vomiting after coughing or coughing until out of breath.

- Stay out of work and school until finishing five days of antibiotic medicine for pertussis. People who have pertussis and don’t take antibiotics should stay out of work or school for three weeks, or until the cough is completely gone.

- Cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently with soap and water, and stay home from work or school when sick.

For more information, call Public Health at 206-296-4774.

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