The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is investigating 48 confirmed cases of whooping cough (pertussis) in western Kent County among people in the Amish community.

In a press release today, DPH officials said they are working closely with the Amish community to offer vaccinations, treatment, and information.

DPH officials are also asking residents to report known or suspected cases of pertussis promptly to the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156 or fax information to (302) 223-1540.

Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics and early treatment is very important, according to DPH. Treatment may make the infection less severe if it is started early, before coughing fits begin. Treatment also can help prevent spreading the disease to others.

DPH reminds people that prevention is the best protection, including vaccination against pertussis, washing hands frequently, and, if ill, seeking medical attention and staying home from work and school.


Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within seven to 10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as six weeks. Early whooping cough symptoms include runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and possibly mild cough or fever. Severe coughing can begin one to two weeks after the illness starts.

In infants, the cough can be minimal or non-existent, but it can cause apnea. Apnea is a pause in the child's breathing pattern. If your infant or anyone is experiencing difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

"Pertussis can be deceiving," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "It can start out as a mild illnesses and the onset of serious symptoms begin quickly. DPH is reminding people again about the importance of preventing the spread of the disease through vaccination, and early detection and treatment."

DPH reminds residents that vaccination is the best protection against whooping cough. Children who never have received any doses of the vaccine are at least eight times more likely to get pertussis than children who got all five doses of the vaccine before age 7. Whooping cough spreads easily by coughing and sneezing. It is a very serious illness for babies and children.

For information on vaccination needs, including booster shots for adults (especially important for pregnant women) and child immunizations, contact your doctor or call the DPH Immunization program at 302-744-1060. Delaware offers free and low-cost vaccines for children who qualify.

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