Health & Medicine

Whooping cough vaccine recommended for all Kentuckians

Health officials are urging Kentuckians to obtain a vaccine to protect against pertussis, also called whooping cough.

The number of recorded cases has jumped in recent years from 47 in 2007 to 250 in 2010, according to a news release Wednesday from the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

Children younger than 1 year old are especially at risk, said Dr. William Hacker, commissioner of the health department.

Children should get a series of four doses of the vaccine beginning at 8 weeks of age and ending at 15 to 18 months. The vaccine typically is given in a combination shot called DTaP, which includes vaccine for tetanus and diphtheria.

Children and adults 11 to 64 years old — especially parents, grandparents and caregivers for children younger than 1 — should get a booster shot called Tdap.

You can contact your primary care physician or health department to get a shot.

Whooping cough is spread from infected people to people without immunity in close contact with them. People at highest risk of contracting whooping cough are other household members. Infected people become contagious before the cough develops until about two weeks afterward.

The early symptoms of pertussis include runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough. After a week or two of these cold-like symptoms, however, a persistent cough develops, occurring in explosive bursts, sometimes ending with a high-pitched "whoop" and vomiting.

For more information on pertussis, go to the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,