By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Whooping cough outbreak hits Barton County
Placeholder Image

  With five current cases of whooping cough and one fatality from the disease in the past month, Barton County is now in the throws of a pertussis outbreak, Health Director Shelly Schneider said Monday morning.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, an outbreak is at least two incidents of the illness in people who don’t reside in the same household. Schneider said Barton County has surpassed that threshold.
“This is a reality,” Schneider said. The current cases, all in Great Bend, are in residents ranging from 4 months to middle age.
Barton County is not alone. There is an outbreak in Johnson County and several cases in the City of Wichita. McPherson County has weathered a number of cases as well.
Although she stopped short of calling for a quarantine, which would have to be sanctioned by the County Commission, Schneider called for the isolation of those suffering from whooping cough symptoms.
“If you have a sick child with a cough, keep them at home,” she said. Pertussis symptoms include a severe, uncontrollable cough and low-grade fever.
Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk of long-term harm or death from pertussis, she said.
Health Department nurses have been “contact tracing,” or following up with anyone who has come in contact with suspected cases, the health director said. “They’ve done a great deal of leg work on this.
“It’s just so highly contagious,” Schneider said. All one has to do to be considered a contact is have been within three feet of an infected person.
Whooping cough is an air-borne disease and can be spread by coughs and sneezes.
It can be prevented via the vaccine, and it can be treated with antibiotics, Schneider said. But, once one has had it, they can get it again, and there are cases reported in those who were vaccinated.
Pertussis can last for weeks and be exhausting due to the constant hacking, she said. And, through much of that time, the patient remains infectious.
In the meantime, the Health Department is urging residents to make sure their whooping cough vaccines are up to date, and if recommended, a booster is administered.
Schneider said her office was out of vaccine as of Monday, but expected to have more available today. “Whether it works or not, some protection is better than none.”

Some background
Schneider said immunizations with the Dtap, or diptheria, tetanus and pertussis, vaccine protects children from two months through age 6. The Tdap boosters then protect high school and even college kids.
“This is why it is important to follow the immunization schedule and not get behind,” Schneider said.
But, many adults don’t keep their vaccinations up to date. “We want to get the moms, the dads, the grandmas and the grandpas,” Schneider said.
 Whooping cough spreads easily and can cause violent coughing fits that can last up to 10 weeks or more, Schneider said. It can be severe, even deadly, especially in babies younger than 6 months of age, who are too young to be well protected by vaccines.
For older children and adults, whooping cough may not be fatal, but is miserable, Schneider said. It can cause incontinence and fractured ribs from the coughing, and pneumonia.
And, she said it can lead to scarring of the lungs that may make the body more susceptible to illnesses in the future.
“We can help protect our babies by getting the Tdap vaccine, a shot that renews protection against whooping cough (and two other serious illnesses),” she said. “By vaccinating preteens, teens, and adults – including pregnant women – in our community, we can surround our babies with a circle of protection.”
For more information concerning the special pertussis clinic or Tdap vaccine, contact the Barton County Health Department at 620-793-1902.