Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Whooping cough spreads to 10 Hillsborough schools

TAMPA — An outbreak of whooping cough in Hillsborough County has struck 10 schools—nine public and one private. Now health officials worry that summer camps, outings and family vacations may allow the illness, also known as pertussis, to spread even more widely.

"Kids will be fanning out to various churches, camps and community centers, which increases the opportunity to spread pertussis and the number of people who will be exposed," said Warren McDougle, epidemiology program manager for the Hillsborough County Health Department. "The school year ending isn't necessarily going to bring us relief from this outbreak."

Pertussis or whooping cough, as it is commonly known, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes coldlike symptoms and uncontrollable, violent coughing that can go on for weeks, even months. It is most dangerous — even potentially fatal — to infants.

So far this year, Hillsborough County has seen about 40 cases. Last year Hillsborough reported just two cases between January and June.

The Florida Department of Health issued a reminder about the importance of vaccination late in April when whooping cough cases spiked statewide. But cases are not up in all counties — Pinellas has had just two this year.

Although children must be vaccinated against the disease to enter school, infection rates have been on the rise nationally for the past few years. Experts say that may be largely because many adults do not get booster shots, recommended every 10 years.

Pertussis symptoms may not seem so bad in older children and adults, especially at first, so people might not even know they are a danger to others.

Also, some parents are refusing vaccines for their children — making them more vulnerable if they come into contact with the bacteria. At least seven of the Hillsborough cases are linked with vaccine refusal.

It's also possible that the vaccine schedule might need to be adjusted, or that the vaccine might need to be reformulated, McDougle said.

Dr. Charurut Somboonwit, associate professor of infectious diseases at USF Health, has been called in by the health department to help with some cases. She shares the concern about adults not getting boosters.

"They may not know that immunity wanes, and they haven't had the vaccine since childhood,'' she said.

The vaccine is given in five stages: at two months, four months and six months; between 15 and 18 months and before a child begins school, usually between 4 and 6 years of age.

Hillsborough County and other jurisdictions require children to receive the pertussis vaccine again before entering seventh grade, as part of the Tdap combination that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Though Florida law does not require a seventh-grade shot, health officials recommend it.

Since April, the affected Hillsborough schools have sent hundreds of letters and emails to parents informing them when a case was detected at their child's school. The most recent letters went out Thursday after six cases of whooping cough were identified at Wilson Middle School.

All those children were current on their immunizations, though some of them, as sixth-graders, hadn't yet had their seventh-grade shot.

In the letters to parents, officials are urging them to consider antibiotics for their children, which have been shown to prevent the disease or at least shorten its duration in those who have been exposed. Antibiotics can also make a child who is infected less contagious to others.

But some parents aren't heeding the warnings. At least two children who developed the disease did not receive antibiotics after they had been recommended, McDougle said.

"I know that some people just don't like to take medications or get vaccines, but it's for the good of the community, to protect others not just to protect you,'' Somboonwit said.

"This disease can be fatal in young children who get it and yet it is largely preventable."

Shots and drugs aren't the only means of prevention, she said.

"It's very important that everyone practices coughing etiquette. Cough and sneeze into your elbow. Wash your hands frequently. Doing that will help a lot in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, not just pertussis."

Irene Maher can be reached at [email protected]

Whooping cough spreads to 10 Hillsborough schools 06/01/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 1, 2012 9:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa International named among least expensive airports

    News

    TAMPA — Florida airports apparently have a knack for getting it done cheaply.

    According to RewardExpert, Tampa International Airport is the fifth least expensive domestic airport. 
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
 file photo]

  2. What Hurricane Maria taught me about the people of Puerto Rico

    Hurricanes

    SAN JUAN — After Hurricane Maria took their roof, water and electricity — but spared their chickens — Ana De Jesús and Santiago Quiñones packed a few basics and moved across the street into their windowless beachside kiosk.

    Ismael Freytes, 69, removes muddy debris as he tries to clean out his house in Arecibo, where the local river poured into the streets after Hurricane Maria. [CARL JUSTE?| Miami Herald]
  3. Anna Maria City Pier to close for year after 'extensive damage' from Hurricane Irma

    Travel

    ANNA MARIA — While Hurricane Irma's last-minute shift helped spare large swaths of Florida cities from catastrophic damage, the Anna Maria City Pier didn't fare so well.

    A damage assessment following Hurricane Irma suggests repairs for the Anna Maria City Pier can take at least 12 months. [LUIS SANTANA for Visit Florida]
  4. Photo of the Day for September 26, 2017 - Flying gecko on glass

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Wayne Rayburn of Tarpon Springs, FL. He calls it "Flying gecko on glass."

  5. Candidate in East Hillsborough House primary didn't vote in primaries

    Elections

    TAMPA — Personal voting histories show a sharp difference between Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure, the two candidates in the Republican special election primary Oct. 10 for East Hillsborough's District 58 state House seat.

    Yvonne Fry, Republican candidate for state House District 58, has voted in 34 elections at all levels since 1994. She likes to vote on election day, she said, and considers it a national holiday. [Courtesy of Yvonne Fry]