The Delaware Division of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of whooping cough or pertussis in Kent County. The investigation began in June with the cases occurring in the Amish population. So far 97 cases have been identified among Amish individuals, but as of Wednesday, the disease has spread – infecting a Kent County child with ties to the Amish but lives outside of the community. Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be transmitted by coughing or sneezing or the direct contact with respiratory secretions of an infected person. This is a vaccine-preventable disease and Public Health officials urge everyone to sure they are up to date on their immunizations.
For children to be fully immunized against whooping cough, they need five doses of the vaccine (at ages 2, 4 and 6 months, between 15 and 18 months, and between 4 and 6 years). Women should also be vaccinated with every pregnancy in order for the infant to have some immunity upon birth. Adults who will have regular contact with children, or parents of a newborn and younger children, should also get vaccinated.
Pertussis may occur among persons of any age, including teens and adults who were vaccinated only at a young age, although infants less than 1 year of age have the highest rates of complications.