Health officials warn of whooping cough 'outbreak' in Kitsap County

KITSAP COUNTY -- Public health officials say there has been a pertussis outbreak in Kitsap County.

Nineteen whooping cough cases have been reported since the beginning of January.

“We are concerned because of the number of cases.  The largest danger is to infants, because they are at risk for severe infection, and have not yet been vaccinated for pertussis due to their young age,” said Dr. Susan Turner, Health Officer for Kitsap Public Health District.

There have been 55 cases since June of 2014. On average, Kitsap County has about 14 cases per year.

Officials say those with the greatest risk of getting infected are people with close contact to someone with pertussis. Those who share personal items, like towels or eating utensils, are also at risk of infection.

Here is more information from the Kitsap Public Health District:

Whooping cough can be a very serious disease for infants less than one year of age. The disease can easily spread through droplets carried by the air from a sick person during talking, sneezing or coughing. The illness starts with symptoms similar to a common cold. Children suffering from whooping cough often develop coughing fits, especially at night, giving a high-pitched “whoop” sound. The “whoop” is a sign that the person is struggling to breathe between coughs. The disease can be very severe and, although deaths are rare, they do occur, especially in infants less than one year of age.

The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination. Vaccinated children and adults can become infected with and transmit pertussis; however, disease is less likely to be severe. Vaccination of pregnant women with Tdap is especially important to help protect infants.