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Henderson County identifies more than two dozen cases in whooping cough outbreak

Henderson County
Photo via Canva
Henderson County

Henderson County health officials are tracking a local outbreak of whooping cough.

The Health Department has confirmed 27 cases, with most occurring among school-aged children, officials said in an April 25 news release. Parents, guardians and close contacts of the affected individuals are being notified by letter or phone call, according to the release.

Kimbrell Arrowood, public information officer for Henderson County Public Schools, confirmed that some students at the school had tested positive. "In order to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff, we are following the guidelines and recommendations from the Henderson County Department of Public Health," Arrowood wrote in an email in response to questions from BPR.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an infection that affects the airways and lungs and spreads easily when someone coughs or sneezes. It gets its name from the "whooping"sound people make when gasping for air after coughing. Symptoms typically develop five to 10 days after exposure but can take as long as 21 days.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness initially presents itself as the common cold but can progress to a severe cough lasting for weeks or even months, occasionally leading to coughing fits or vomiting.

Infants younger than 12 months and people with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk for severe complications and death. To prevent whooping cough, two vaccines are available in the United States: DTaP and Tdap. Children under age 7 receive DTaP, while older children, teens and adults receive Tdap.

The Henderson County Health Department is urging the community to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date. The vaccine protection from childhood DTaP shots diminishes over time. Older children and adults, including pregnant women, are advised to receive a Tdap pertussis booster shot to safeguard themselves and infants in their vicinity.

Residents who need a Tdap vaccine can call their healthcare provider or the Henderson County Health Department at 828-692-4223.

For further information on pertussis, visit cdc.gov/pertussis.

(BPR Reporter Jose Sandoval contributed to the report.)

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.