Whooping cough case confirmed in Umatilla County

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Umatilla County Public Health Department announced today a confirmed case of pertussis, or "whooping cough."

A school age child in the west end of the county was diagnosed at the beginning of September and attended school prior to diagnosis. Family members have received antibiotic treatment to prevent further spread of the illness, said Sharon Waldern, clinic supervisor.

In most cases pertussis will start with mild upper respiratory symptoms -- runny nose, sore throat and intermittent cough. Classic pertussis, or whooping cough, is characterized by severe coughing that can last for six to 10 weeks with spasms of coughing, a "whoop" upon inhaling and vomiting after a coughing episode.

The illness is highly contagious and most infectious during the early stages and for two weeks after the cough starts, health officials said. It can occur at any age but can cause severe illness in non-immunized or not fully immunized infants and children.

"The best protection against pertussis is immunizing with ... vaccines," said Genni Lehnert-Beers, administrator for the health department. "It's important to know that immunizations do not always provide 100 percent protection against disease for everyone, especially if more than five years have elapsed since the last shot."

As well, stay home when ill, cough into your elbow or a tissue (dispose of promptly) and wash hands for at least 20 seconds, officials advised.

Umatilla County has not had a confirmed case of pertussis since 2009, but elsewhere in Oregon and the nation, whooping cough is consistently confirmed, Lehnert-Beers said.

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