Whooping Cough Reaches Epidemic In Bluegrass

Reported by: Amanda Stevenson
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Updated: 9/04/2012 5:56 pm
Runny nose, slight cough, maybe a fever...they could just be signs of an autumn cold.

But they could be something potentially more severe.

The Kentucky State Health Department is reporting pertussis--or whooping cough, as it's more commonly known--is now at epidemic levels.

Department officials say 381 cases of the virus have been confirmed so far in 2012--more than they would expect to see when compared to previous years.

Fayette and Estill Counties have been some of the hardest hit.

The Fayette County Health Department has seen around 50 cases so far this year, almost double the 26 cases they'd seen in the previous five years.

Estill County health officials had an outbreak of 14 pertussis cases in early July.  That amount has quadrupled to 56 as of September 4th.

Symptoms for the virus are very cold- or flu-like: runny nose, slight temperature, coughing at night...but the coughing gets severe after 10 to 14 days.

That cough can last for six weeks or more, say health officials, and often leaves the person short of breath between attacks.

That's where the "whooping" in whooping cough comes in.

State health officials say the best way to treat--or get vaccinated for--pertussis is to see their primary care doctor.

Others can visit their local health departments.

The Estill County Health Department has given over 800 free vaccinations so far, and officials say they're still available.  Those in the area that are interested can call the health department at (606) 723-5227.

Fayette County is offering vaccines through HealthFirst Bluegrass.  Kids ages 0 to 18 years that are uninsured or under-insured don't have to pay for vaccinations. However, a copay may be required.

Adults have to be an established patient through the clinic, or else make an appointment to become one before being eligible to get the vaccine.

However, all insurances are accepted...and those without insurance are charged based on household income. For more information on Fayette County services, call (859) 288-2425.

Health officials stress that those with symptoms should make an appointment to get tested as soon as possible, and should avoid going to school or work so they don't spread the illness.

For more information on pertussis, and its symptoms, you can visit the CDC website.
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