Pertussis Alert for Northwest Illinois

November 22, 2019 – An outbreak of pertussis in nearby Ogle County has health officials in Stephenson County and FHN on alert for more local pertussis cases.

Pertussis – also known as whooping cough – is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can cause serious complications – even death – particularly in babies. It spreads from person to person through coughs and sneezes, and people who are infected are contagious up to 2 weeks before symptoms appear.

“Pertussis is preventable with a vaccine,” said FHN Infection Preventionist Margie Kochsmier MSN RN CMSRN CIC. “Babies can get their first dose of the DTap (tetanus and diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine at 2 months of age, but before then, it's up to the infant's family to keep him or her away from people who are infected and to seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.”

“Because family members and friends can be infected and contagious before they even know they have whooping cough, we are urging everyone to make sure that they are up-to-date on their TDap immunizations,” Kochsmier said.

Whooping cough starts with symptoms much like a cold (runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild cough). The characteristic “whoop” intake of air after a cough doesn't develop until 1 – 2 weeks after the disease starts.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends people of all ages be vaccinated against pertussis. Babies and children get doses at 2, 4, and 6 months, at 15-18 months, and again between the ages of 4 and 6.

Children should receive a booster dose of TDap at around 11 or 12 years of age, and teens and adults who didn't get a booster as a preteen should get a booster now.

To protect young babies, pregnant women should get a TDap booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, and those who care for babies should make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations.

“Even if you've had whooping cough or had the TDap vaccine as a child, you should get a booster to protect the young children in your life,” Kochsmier said.

Download our brochure comparing the symptoms of influenza, the common cold, and pertussis.

Listen to Margie Kochsmier, MSN, RN, CMSRN, FHN Infection Control, talk about Pertussis on the Dial-a-Doc radio show.