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Whooping cough outbreak now up to eight cases

The number of cases of highly infectious whooping cough has grown to eight in Henderson County, the Health Department reported.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a serious respiratory infection caused by the pertussis bacteria that affects the lungs and breathing tubes. The health department and school officials have identified approximately 1,000 close contacts to students in school who have come down with the infection.

Symptoms can begin up to 21 days after exposure, starting much like the common cold with sneezing, runny nose and mild cough. Coughing fits that may cause vomiting and make it hard to breathe can begin one to two weeks after first symptoms and can last for months. Anyone can get whooping cough. Even those who have been fully vaccinated can get the infection but will have milder symptoms.
Whooping cough is especially dangerous for infants, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, the health department said. If the person who had contact with a case has symptoms,stay home to prevent others from getting sick, the health department urged. If the doctor thinks you may have whooping cough and gives you an antibiotic, you should stay home until you finish taking the medication.

If the person who had contact does NOT have symptoms but has an infant, pregnant woman or someone with a weakened immune system in their home, contact the health department or school nurse.