THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Delaware investigating whooping cough cluster in Kent County

The Delaware Division of Public Health recently said it was looking into 48 confirmed cases of whooping cough in western Kent County among members of the Amish community.

Whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis, results in early symptoms like sneezing, congestion or runny nose and possibly fever or mild cough. One to two weeks after symptoms appear, the disease can result in severe coughing. Pertussis can also cause apnea, a pause in the breathing pattern, among infants and children.

The DPH is working with the Amish community to offer vaccines, treatment and information. Early treatment of the disease can make infection less severe, particularly if it is started before coughing fits begin. Treatment of pertussis can also prevent the disease from spreading.

"Pertussis can be deceiving," Karyl Rattay, the director of the DPH, said. "It can start out as a mild illnesses and the onset of serious symptoms begin quickly. DPH is reminding people again about the importance of preventing the spread of the disease through vaccination, and early detection and treatment."

The DPH said that vaccination is the most effective protection against whooping cough. Unvaccinated children are at least eight times more likely to get pertussis than children who received all five doses of the vaccine before age seven.

The DPH reminded members of the community to wash their hands frequently and, if ill, to seek medical attention and stay home from school and work.