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Diseases and conditions
Other communicable diseases

The following information, taken from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), provides answers to frequently asked questions about communicable diseases such as how each disease spreads, signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

Common communicable diseases
- Campylobacter (diarrheal illness)
- Chickenpox
- E. Coli
- Giardia
- Head lice
- Hepatitis
- Lyme disease
- Meningitis
- Measles
- MRSA
- Mumps
- Norovirus and gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Rabies and animal bites 
- Salmonellosis (Salmonella)
- Whooping Cough (Pertussis) (sudden spasms of severe coughing,
whooping, and posttussive vomiting)


Campylobacter

Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Campylobacter.

How common is Campylobacter? Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. The vast majority of cases occur as isolated, sporadic events, not as part of recognized outbreaks.  Campylobacteriosis occurs much more frequently in the summer months than in the winter.

What are the symptoms? Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts one week. Some infected persons do not have any symptoms. In persons with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.

Who gets infected? Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts. Outbreaks of Campylobacter are usually associated with unpasteurized milk or contaminated water. Animals can also be infected, and some people have acquired their infection from contact with the stool of an ill dog or cat. The organism is not usually spread from one person to another, but this can happen if the infected person is producing a large volume of diarrhea.

A very small number of Campylobacter organisms (fewer than 500) can cause illness in humans. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can infect a person. One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a cutting board, and then use the unwashed cutting board or utensil to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods. The Campylobacter organisms from the raw meat can thus spread to the other foods.

Many chicken flocks are infected with Campylobacter but show no signs of illness. Campylobacter can be easily spread from bird to bird through a common water source or through contact with infected feces.  Unpasteurized milk can become contaminated if the cow has an infection with Campylobacter in her udder or the milk is contaminated with manure.

How are infections diagnosed? Many different kinds of infections can cause diarrhea and bloody diarrhea. Campylobacter infection is diagnosed when a culture of a stool specimen yields the organism.

What is the best treatment? Almost all persons infected with Campylobacter recover without any specific treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as the diarrhea lasts. In more severe cases, antibiotics such as erythromycin or a fluoroquinolone can be used, and can shorten the duration of symptoms if given early in the illness. Your doctor will decide whether antibiotics are necessary.  Most people who get campylobacteriosis recover completely within two to five days, although sometimes recovery can take up to 10 days. Rarely, Campylobacter infection results in long-term consequences.

Prevention 
Some simple food handling practices can help prevent Campylobacter infections.

  • Cook all poultry products thoroughly. Make sure that the meat is cooked throughout (no longer pink) and any juices run clear. All poultry should be cooked to reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • If you are served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking.
  • Wash hands with soap before preparing food.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling raw foods of animal origin and before touching anything else.
  • Prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen by using separate cutting boards for foods of animal origin and other foods and by carefully cleaning all cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after preparing raw food of animal origin.
  • Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk and untreated surface water.
  • Make sure that persons with diarrhea, especially children, wash their hands carefully and frequently with soap to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

More information on Campylobactor.


Chickenpox (Varicella)

A disease caused by infection with the varicella zoster virus, which causes fever and an itchy rash of blister-like lesions.

What are the symptoms? Lesions cover the body but are usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and trunk. Infected individuals have fever, which develops just before or when the rash appears. If exposed, persons who have been vaccinated against the disease may get a milder illness, with less severe rash (sometimes involving only a few red bumps that look similar to insect bites) and mild or no fever.

How is Chickenpox transmitted? Chickepox is very contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing.  In order to prevent the spread of chickenpox, when a case occurs in a school or daycare, all unimmunized children are routeline excluded from school for 21 days past the onset of the lat case in the facility. Readmission to the facility can occur immediately following proof of receiving at lease one prior dose of varicella vaccine or proof of prior disease from a health care provider.  If not proof of prior vaccination, children may return to school if they show proof they were vaccinated within three days of exposure to the last case in the facility.

More information


E. Coli

Escherichia colia (abbreviated as E.coli) are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E.coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E.coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses. Some kinds of E. coli cause disease by making a toxin called Shiga toxin. The bacteria that make these toxins are called “Shiga toxin-producing” E. coli, or STEC for short. The most commonly identified STEC in North America is E. coli O157:H7 (often shortened to E. coli O157 or even just “O157”). When you hear news reports about outbreaks of “E. coli” infections, they are usually talking about E. coli O157.

Who gets E.Coli?
People of any age can become infected. Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) than others, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of STEC infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

Around 5–10% of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.

The time between ingesting the STEC bacteria and feeling sick is called the “incubation period.” The incubation period is usually 3-4 days after the exposure, but may be as short as 1 day or as long as 10 days. The symptoms often begin slowly with mild belly pain or non-bloody diarrhea that worsens over several days. HUS, if it occurs, develops an average 7 days after the first symptoms, when the diarrhea is improving. 

Where do STEC come from?
STEC live in the guts of ruminant animals, including cattle, goats, sheep, deer, and elk. The major source for human illnesses is cattle.

How are infections diagnosed?
STEC infections are usually diagnosed through lab testing of stool specimens (feces). STEC typically disappear from the feces by the time the illness is resolved, but may be shed for several weeks, even after symptoms go away. Young children tend to carry STEC longer than adults. A few people keep shedding these bacteria for several months. Good hand-washing is always a smart idea to protect yourself, your family, and other persons.

What is the best treatment?
Antibiotics should not be used to treat this infection. There is no evidence that treatment with antibiotics is helpful, and taking antibiotics may increase the risk of HUS. Anti-diarrheal agents like Imodium® may also increase that risk.

Prevention
To prevent STEC infections:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. Wash your hands after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own backyard)
  • Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F/70˚C. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness.”
  • Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
  • Avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
  • Prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.

More information on E.Coli


Giardia

Giardiasis is a diarrheal illness caused by a one-celled, microscopic parasite. Once an animal or person has been infected with Giardia intestinalis, the parasite lives in the intestine and is passed in the stool. The parasite can survive outside the body and in the environment for long periods of time. Giardia are found worldwide and within every region of the United States.

Who gets giardia? Giardia is found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces from infected humans or animals. You can become infected after accidentally swallowing the parasite; you cannot become infected through contact with blood. Giardia can be spread by:

  • Accidentally putting something into your mouth or swallowing something that has come into contact with feces of a person or animal infected with Giardia.
  • Swallowing recreational water contaminated with Giardia. Recreational water includes water in swimming pools, hot tubs, jacuzzis, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams that can be contaminated with sewage or feces from humans or animals.
  • Eating uncooked food contaminated with Giardia.
  • Accidentally swallowing Giardia picked up from surfaces (such as bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails, or toys) contaminated with feces from an infected person.

What are the symptoms? Giardia infection can cause a variety of intestinal symptoms, which include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Gas or flatulence.
  • Greasy stools that tend to float.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Upset stomach or nausea.

Some people with giardiasis have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of giardiasis normally begin 1 to 2 weeks (average 7 days) after becoming infected. In otherwise healthy persons, symptoms of giardiasis may last 2 to 6 weeks. Occasionally, symptoms last longer.

How are infections diagnosed?
Your health care provider will likely ask you to submit stool samples to check for the parasite. Because Giardia can be difficult to diagnose, your provider may ask you to submit several stool specimens over several days.

What is the best treatment?
Treatment is not necessary when the child has no symptoms. However, there are a few exceptions. If your child does not have diarrhea, but is having nausea, fatigue (very tired), weight loss, or a poor appetite, you and your health care provider may wish to consider treatment. If your child attends a day care center where an outbreak is continuing to occur despite efforts to control it, screening and treating children who have no obvious symptoms may be a good idea. The same is true if several family members are ill, or if a family member is pregnant and therefore not able to take the most effective anti- Giardia medications.

How do I avoid spreading Giardia to others? Follow these guidelines to avoid spreading giardiasis to others:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
  • Do not swim in recreational water (pools, hot tubs, lakes or rivers, the ocean, etc.) if you have Giardia and for at least 2 weeks after diarrhea stops. You can pass Giardia in your stool and contaminate water for several weeks after your symptoms have ended. This has resulted in outbreaks of Giardia among recreational water users.
  • Avoid fecal exposure during sexual activity.

Prevention 

  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Avoid water that might be contaminated. If you are unable to avoid using or drinking water that might be contaminated, then you can make the water safe to drink by doing one of the following:
  • Heat the water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute, or
  • Use a filter that has an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller, or one that has been NSF rated for "cyst removal."
  • If you cannot heat the water to a rolling boil or use a recommended filter, then try chemically treating the water by chlorination or iodination. Using chemicals may be less effective than boiling or filtering because the amount of chemical required to make the water safe is highly dependent on the temperature, pH, and cloudiness of the water.
  • Avoid food that might be contaminated.
  • Wash and/or peel all raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
  • Use safe, uncontaminated water to wash all food that is to be eaten raw.
  • Avoid eating uncooked foods when traveling in countries with minimal water treatment and sanitation systems. 
  • Avoid fecal exposure during sexual activity.

More information about Giardia


Head lice

The head louse is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several time a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease.

Who gets Head lice?
Head lice are passed from one person to another.  Head lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk. Spread by contact with clothing (such as hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (such as combs, brushes, or towels) used by an infested person is uncommon. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.

What are the symptoms?
Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair, itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse, irritability and difficulty sleeping; head lice are most active in the dark, and sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria found on the person's skin.

What is the best treatment?
Treatment for head lice is recommended for persons diagnosed with an active infestation. All household members and other close contacts should be checked; those persons with evidence of an active infestation should be treated. Some experts believe prophylactic treatment is prudent for persons who share the same bed with actively-infested individuals. All infested persons (household members and close contacts) and their bedmates should be treated at the same time. Visit the CDC for more information on how to treat head lice.

Head lice fact sheet


Hepatitis

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types in the United States are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A
A contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person.   The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated.

More information on Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B
A contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis B virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.

More information on Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C
A contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injection drug use.

More information on Hepatitis C


Lyme disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well.

What are the symptoms?
Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.

How are infections diagnosed?
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease.

What is the best treatment?
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

Prevention.
Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, landscaping, and integrated pest management.

Learn more about Lyme disease


Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. People sometimes refer to it as spinal meningitis. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment, while bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability.

What are the symptoms?
High fever, headache, and stiff neck are common symptoms of meningitis in anyone over the age of 2 years. These symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take 1 to 2 days. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion, and sleepiness.

How are infections diagnosed?
Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If symptoms occur, the patient should see a doctor immediately.

More information


Measles

Measles is an infectious viral disease that occurs most often in the late winter and spring. It begins with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). A rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the back and trunk, then extends to the arms and hands, as well as the legs and feet.

Who gets measles?
Measles is highly contagious. Infected people are usually contagious from about 4 days before their rash starts to 4 days afterwards.  In order to prevent or reduce the spread of measles, when a case occurs in a school or daycare, all unimmunized children are routinely excluded from school for 21 days past the onset of the last cure.

More information about Measles and vaccination


MRSA

MRSA is a type of "staph" skin infection that has become resistant to some antibiotics such as penicillin. Bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics when they are used unnecessarily or not taken as directed.  

Who gets MRSA?
Until recently, people most often got MRSA infections when they had open wounds, burns, and/or tubes inserted in their bodies for medical treatment and were hospitalized or stayed in a nursing home. Now MRSA skin infections are becoming more common among adults and children who have not stayed in hospitals or nursing homes. MRSA infections can be mild or very serious and are spread through skin to skin contact or less frequently by touching surfaces that have MRSA on them.

Anyone can get a staph infection. People are more likely to get a Staph infection if they have:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a staph infection.
  • Contact with items and surfaces that have staph on them.
  • Openings in their skin such as cuts or scrapes.
  • Crowded living conditions.
  • Poor hygiene.

What are the symptoms?
Staph is a type of bacteria. It may cause skin infections that look like pimples or boils. Skin infections caused by Staph may be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. MRSA’s resistance to certain antibiotics makes it harder to treat.

Prevention 
The best way to protect against MRSA infections is frequent hand washing with soap and water. 

More information


Mumps

Mumps is an infection caused by the mumps virus.

Who gets mumps?
Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination can get mumps. Because most people have now been vaccinated, mumps is now a rare disease in the United States.

What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite followed by onset of parotitis (swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears-on one or both sides).

How is Mumps spread?
Mumps is spread by mucus or droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, usually when a person coughs or sneezes. Surfaces of items (e.g. toys) can also spread the virus if someone who is sick touches them without washing their hands, and someone else then touches the same surface and then rubs their eyes, mouth, nose etc.

Prevention. 
Mumps vaccine (usually MMR), is the best way to prevent mumps.

More information about mumps


Norovirus and gastroenteritis

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis, which is sometimes called "stomach flu."  These viruses should not be confused with the influenza virus which primarily causes respiratory illness.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days.

Prevention 
This virus is very infectious and can spread quickly in residential facilities and schools. Regular cleaning of surfaces with a bleach solution is an important way to reduce transmission.

More information


Rabies and animal bites

Rabies is a disease caused by the rabies virus. It may take several weeks or even a few years for people to show symptoms after getting infected with rabies, but usually people start to show signs of the disease 1 to 3 months after the virus infects them.

How is rabies transmitted?
Wild animals are much more likely to carry rabies, especially raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes. However, dogs, cats, cattle (cows), or any warm-blooded animal can pass rabies to people. People usually get rabies from the bite of an infected animal. You should always wash any bite thoroughly and check with your health care provider about what to do if any animal bites you.

What are the symptoms?
The early signs of rabies can be fever or headache, but this changes quickly to nervous system signs, such as confusion, sleepiness, or agitation

More information about rabies

Avoiding bat bites

Rabies treatment following bites by raccoons or other wild animals


Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. Salmonella is actually a group of bacteria that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. They are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of people or animals to other people or other animals. There are many different kinds of Salmonella bacteria.

Who gets Salmonella?
Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but any food, including vegetables, may become contaminated. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella.

Salmonella may also be found in the feces of some pets, especially those with diarrhea. Reptiles, such as turtles, lizards, and snakes, are particularly likely to harbor Salmonella.  Many chicks and young birds carry Salmonella in their feces. People should always wash their hands immediately after handling a reptile or bird, even if the animal is healthy. 

What are the symptoms?
Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness. 

What is the best treatment?
Salmonella infections usually resolve in 5-7 days and often do not require treatment other than oral fluids.  Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal. A small number of persons with Salmonella develop pain in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. This is called Reiter's syndrome. It can last for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis which is difficult to treat. Antibiotic treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person develops arthritis.

Prevention
There is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis. Because foods of animal origin may be contaminated with Salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat. Raw eggs may be unrecognized in some foods, such as homemade Hollandaise sauce, Caesar and other homemade salad dressings, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, and frostings. Poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be well-cooked, not pink in the middle. Persons also should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. Produce should be thoroughly washed.

Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Hand should be washed before handling food, and between handling different food items.

People who have salmonellosis should not prepare food or pour water for others until their diarrhea has resolved.  Many health departments require that restaurant workers with Salmonella infection have a stool test showing that they are no longer carrying the Salmonella bacterium before they return to work.

People should wash their hands after contact with animal feces. Because reptiles are particularly likely to have Salmonella, and it can contaminate their skin, everyone should immediately wash their hands after handling reptiles. Reptiles (including turtles) are not appropriate pets for small children and should not be in the same house as an infant.

What else can I do to prevent salmonellosis?

  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
  • Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons.
  • Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.
  • Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems.

More information about Salmonellosis

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

More information on Pertussis Data

Whooping cough is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that can last for many weeks. Symptoms are most severe in young children, who typically have coughing fits followed by a “whooping” noise. Their symptoms may also include vomiting and difficulty catching their breath.

Whooping cough usually begins with cold-like symptoms and a cough that worsens over 1-2 weeks. In older children and adults the symptoms may be only a persistent cough which is worse at night.

How does whooping cough spread?
Whooping cough spreads when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks close to someone else.

Who is at risk?
Infants and children who are too young to be fully vaccinated or have not completed the primary vaccination series are at highest risk for severe illness. Infants born to women who were exposed to pertussis in their third trimester of pregnancy are also at risk for severe illness. Babies with whooping cough are often hospitalized.

Whooping cough is highly contagious with up to 90% of susceptible household contacts developing the disease after exposure to someone with the disease. Susceptible contacts include anyone who is not fully vaccinated.

What vaccinations should people get?
Pertussis vaccines are recommended for both children and adults. Children should get 5 doses of DTaP, one dose at each of the following ages: 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months and 4-6 years. Adolescents 11-18 years of age (preferably at age 11-12 years) and adults 19 years of age and older should receive a single, one-time dose of Tdap regardless of the interval since their last Td (tetanus, diphtheria) vaccination. For more information about whooping cough vaccinations, see http://www.doh.wa.gov/Topics/pertussis2012/.

Where can I get whooping cough vaccinations in Clark County? See vaccination information.  Includes information on free vaccinations for uninsured children and adults.   

What if I was exposed to whooping cough?
Please see the pertussis (whooping cough) information sheet below for further information about pertussis and what to do if you or your family were exposed.

More information
About Pertussis - Centers for Disease Control
Pertussis fact sheet

 


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