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PROVO — Whooping cough cases in Utah County have nearly doubled in 2018 compared to 2017, health department officials said.
About 70 cases have been reported to the Utah County Health Department — nearly double that of the same time frame from the previous year, according to department spokeswoman Aislynn Toman-Hill. Utah County Health Department officials said the infection, which has mostly affected infants and young children, will likely spread further now that school is back in session.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection characterized by cold symptoms like a runny nose and irritating cough, the department said in an emailed statement.
Pertussis can be life-threatening for small children and can become a persistent and severe cough that lasts for weeks in teenagers and adults who have been immunized against the infection. Some cases, however, may simply turn into a mild cough, the department said.
“Regardless of the cough intensity, pertussis can be spread to others, including unimmunized infants, who are at such high risk, especially those who have not yet been immunized. Since this can be life-threatening in small children, it is very important for those experiencing symptoms to go to their health care provider to be diagnosed and receive treatment,” the department’s medical director David Flinders said in an emailed statement.
Vaccination is the best prevention against pertussis, health department officials said. A booster vaccine called Tdap is available to teens and adults. However, neither the childhood vaccine nor the illness creates a lifelong immunity to the infection, the department said.