Pertussis outbreak reported in Kansas

Health officials in Johnson County, Kansas, are warning residents to protect their children from an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has reported 70 confirmed or possible cases of the illness so far this year, prompting the concern. They are asking that all confirmed or suspected cases be reported immediately, according to the Kansas City Star.

The health department is offering the TDaP vaccine regardless of insurance to pregnant women, women with infants under the age of one year and those who care for or have close contact with children less than six years old.

JCDHE also reminded healthcare providers to consider pertussis as a possible cause when evaluating anyone with a persistent cough.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable and often violent coughing spasms that can make it difficult for the infected to breathe. It can cause permanent disability in infants.

The infection is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and tiny droplets containing the bacteria spread. It generally lasts six weeks, with initial symptoms developing approximately a week after exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.