Nurse: Be aware of whooping cough in Routt County

State health department recommends vaccinating against infection

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Call the Visiting Nurse Association at 970-879-1632 or visit http://nwcovna.info.

— There has been only one reported case of pertussis, or whooping cough, in Routt Coun­­ty since July, but that doesn’t mean more residents haven’t suffered from the respiratory tract infection.

“It is extremely underreported and misdiagnosed,” said Janice Poirot, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse As­­sociation’s public health nurse.

Poirot said many adults who have whooping cough feel well enough that they don’t see a doctor.

She also said it’s not uncommon for whooping cough to be diagnosed as another coughing illness.

Anyone who coughs for more than two weeks should see a doctor and be examined for whooping cough.

Poirot said the cough, which comes in waves and can be violent enough to break ribs, isn’t especially dangerous for adults.

But it can be fatal for infants, who can contract the bacteria for whooping cough from older siblings, their parents or the adults who care for them.

Poirot said 10 infants have died of whooping cough in California since January. More than 6,800 people have been diagnosed in that time, according to a story Nov. 18 in USA Today.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environ­ment recently reported there have been 229 reported cases of whooping cough already this year, nearly triple the 2007 to 2009 average of 77 per year.

“Adults often don’t get as sick as children,” Poirot said. “They feel fine and go to work. But they’re spreading it to other people.”

The Department of Public Health and Environment has recommended wider use of the whooping cough vaccine.

Poirot said the people being targeted for vaccinations are those who come in contact with young babies, including health care workers.

The Visiting Nurse Assoc­­iation has a drop-in clinic — no appointment is necessary — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Jan. 6.

She said vaccinations also would be provided at Steamboat Springs High School from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday. The cost of the vaccination, which also treats for tetanus and diphtheria, is $14.

Poirot said a new whooping cough vaccine was added to the tetanus vaccine five years ago. Anyone who’s received a tetanus vaccine since that time also should have been immunized for whooping cough, she said.

For more information, call the Visiting Nurse Association at 970-879-1632 or visit http://nwcovna.info.

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