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County Issues Pertussis Health Advisory

Liberty, NY – Sullivan County Public Health Services would like to notify the public that three confirmed cases of pertussis (whooping cough) have been identified in children of varying ages in Sullivan County this week.

“This is an important advisory,” Public Health Director Nancy McGraw stated. “As recently as 2016, Sullivan County had a pertussis outbreak of nearly 30 cases, and dozens of additional probable cases were investigated, interviewed and individuals treated.”

If you or your child has been around someone with pertussis, you may become sick with pertussis. This is especially true when you or your child has not received all the pertussis vaccine shots. Sometimes even if your shots are up to date, you may still get pertussis.

Pertussis is also known as whooping cough because of the “whooping” sound that is made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing makes it hard to breathe. Coughing fits due to pertussis infection can last for up to 10 weeks or more.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and cough, which becomes much worse over 1-2 weeks.  Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (“coughing fits”) followed by a “whooping” noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the “whoop.” There is generally only a slight fever. 

People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching breath. The cough is often worse at night, and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with pertussis, it is very important to complete the antibiotic regimen before returning to work, school or community functions, to reduce the spread of the disease to others. People who have or may have pertussis should stay away from young children, infants and all people with pre-existing health conditions that may be exacerbated by a pertussis infection (for example, immune-compromised persons and patients with moderate to severe medically treated asthma).

Pertussis can cause serious illness in babies, children, teens, and adults and can even be                  life-threatening, especially in babies. Approximately half of babies less than 1 year old who get pertussis need treatment in the hospital.

The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination with DTaP for babies and children and with Tdap for preteens, teens, and adults. Vaccination of pregnant women with Tdap is especially important to help protect their newborn. Vaccinated children and adults can become infected with and spread pertussis; however, the disease is typically much less serious in vaccinated people.

Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics, which are used to control the symptoms and to prevent infected people from spreading the disease.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 24.1 million cases of pertussis and about 160,700 deaths per year, according to the most recent data. In 2012, the most recent peak year, 48,277 cases of pertussis were reported in the United States, but many more go undiagnosed and unreported. This is the largest number of cases reported in the United States since 1955, when 62,786 cases were reported.

Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of pertussis in the United States. In 2010, an increase in reported cases among 7- through 10-year-olds was seen. Similar trends occurred in the following years; however, an increase in cases was also observed among teens. (Source:

Here are some tips to keep pertussis from spreading:

• Wash your hands with soap and water frequently

• Cover your coughs and sneezes

• Do not share cups or silverware

• Stay away from others until evaluated by a physician

Immunizations can be obtained through your healthcare provider or at Sullivan County Public Health Services, 50 Community Lane, Liberty by appointment – 845-292-5910 – or on the second Wednesday evening of each month from 5-7 p.m. 

If you or your child comes down with any of the above symptoms, including a cough, talk to your healthcare provider without delay. If your provider needs more information, they can call Public Health Services at 845-292-5910. An epidemiology nurse is on call and available 24/7.