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Whooping cough outbreak grips Ky. county

More than 20 cases have tested positive for pertussis, and the number is on the rise

By Brittany Wise
Grayson County News-Gazette

LEITCHFIELD, Ky. — Health-care providers across the county are working diligently to keep on top of a current outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough.

“It’s officially an outbreak situation,” said Infection Control Specialist Sandy Blair, with Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center. “Doctors offices, health department, hospital, schools, they’re all seeing this.”

Blair said that as of the end of last week, there were just over 20 positive cases of pertussis documented in the county, and that number has been on the rise this week as more people are being tested.

Gigi Meredith, Director of the Grayson County Health Department said, “We’re seeing an elevated number of cases. We’re doing everything we can do to contain it.”

Meredith, like Blair, appealed to the public to follow the recommended guidelines in order to help quell the spread of pertussis within the community.

Local providers have banded together to ensure that everyone is on the same page and is issuing the same guidelines, which include a pertussis test for anyone who is experiencing coughing. The test consists of a quick nasal swab, and results take at least 48 hours. Tests can be done in a doctor’s office, urgent care office or at the hospital’s emergency room department.

Bethany Priddy, with Leitchfield Pediatric Clinic, said “We have overwhelmed the lab, so we’ve had a few tests that have taken a little longer.”

Priddy said that her office is currently handling around 50 to 60 pertussis tests each day, while they typically would be performing no more than maybe one or two.

“If your child is coughing, contact somebody. If you’re an adult and you have symptoms, talk to your doctor,” Priddy advised.

Local schools have made it their policy to send home any students who are exhibiting a cough. Students may not be allowed back into classrooms without proof of a negative pertussis test result.

“Our nurses are seeing a lot of kids,” said Grayson County Schools Superintendent Barry Anderson.

Anderson said that the school system has tried to be very “proactive” by notifying parents via phone of the increased incidence of whooping cough in the area and posting regional epidemiologist’s recommendations on their website, www.graysoncountyschools.com. Many parents have also received a letter sent home with their students to alert parents of the outbreak.

Priddy explained that anyone who has been tested needs to stay home until their test results are back. If the result is negative, that individual may resume their normal activities. However, anyone who receives a positive test should remain at home until they have completed a round of antibiotics.

She said that while waiting for results or completing an antibiotic, individuals should avoid being in public. “Church, school, ball practice, being out in the community” are all ill-advised due to the potential for further spreading the illness.

“A positive patient needs to essential sort of quarantine themselves,” Blair said.

Additionally, anyone who is in the household with a person who has received a positive test result needs to be tested immediately, according to Priddy, who added that pertussis is spread by droplets from coughing, sneezing, etc.

Priddy said that as of Tuesday, she was unaware of anyone locally who had been hospitalized with the illness, and said that this is thanks to the fact that most children have been immunized against pertussis, and therefore have a milder form of the cough.

The problem comes when un-immunized individuals or pregnant women come into contact with whopping cough, Priddy explained, saying that they are likely to experience a much more severe cough which could lead to hospitalization.

Both Priddy and Blair explained that adults have often not received a pertussis booster shot, and are thus more susceptible to catching whooping cough. Vaccinations are recommended for children, and boosters are recommended for adults.

“If adults are vaccinated, it will help to protect the kids,” Priddy said.

Blair also explained the importance of hand-washing in preventing pertussis, along with many other illnesses. “Wash your hands - I just can’t say that enough. It’s imperative that people do that on an ongoing basis.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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