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Whooping cough, flu season prompt visitor restrictions

The increasing number of cases of highly infectious whooping cough and the onset of flu season has prompted area hospitals to impose visitation restrictions.

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The number of cases of highly infectious whooping cough (pertussis)has grown to 29, the Henderson County Health Department reported on Monday. Pertussis 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.

Last week Park Ridge Health announced visitor restrictions and Pardee UNC Health Care announced restrictions on Monday.

  • As part of visitor restrictions, Pardee asks that:
    All children (12 and under) not visit patient rooms because children are more susceptible to infections and can be ill without obvious symptoms.
  • Adults refrain from visiting loved ones in the hospital if they feel ill or have the following symptoms: headache, muscle aches, cough, fever, sore throat, and/or runny or stuffy nose.
  • Anyone with such symptoms wear a mask if they must visit the hospital or a physician’s office.

 


Pardee is not yet seeing many flu cases, but expects an increase during and after the holidays. Flu symptoms include headache, muscle aches, cough, fever, sore throat, and/or runny or stuffy nose. If you have flu or pertussis symptoms, you can reduce the chances of spreading it to others by covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your arm (not your hands); washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water or using hand sanitizer after coughing or sneezing, and before and after touching your face, nose and mouth; and not sharing utensils or cups.

Park Ridge Health implemented similar visitor restrictions:

  • No hospital visitors under the age of 18 permitted.
  • Visitors are limited to immediate family and clergy only.
  • The number of visitors is limited to one or two at a time, unless special circumstances are presented.
  • No hospital visitors with cough or other whooping cough symptoms permitted.

“Park Ridge Health has been tracking the increase in Pertussis activity in our communities, which has reached the point where visitor restrictions are in the best interest for the safety of our patients,” said Jimm Bunch, Park Ridge Health President & CEO. The visitor restrictions will remain in place until the elevated risk for exposure to whooping cough comes to an end. Thank you for your cooperation in this effort to prevent the spread of the dangerous infection.

“Pertussis or whooping cough is a serious bacterial infection that affects the lungs and breathing tubes,” said Teresa Herbert, a Park Ridge Health Pediatrician and Chief Medical Officer. “While anyone can get whooping cough, it presents a much more dangerous risk for infants, pregnant women and people who may have weakened immune systems.”

Whooping cough spreads when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes. It is spread by close contact (within 3 feet), so it is easily spread in classrooms, school buses, and among family members.

Herbert adds, you are most contagious in the early stages of the illness, before you know you are sick. The best protection is immunization.

The T-Dap Vaccination reduces the risk for contracting whooping cough, and if you get the illness, can decrease the severity. It does require booster doses to maintain effectiveness.

To learn more about whooping cough and its risks, visit www.hendersoncountync.org/health/