ALAN REED | The Sun
Andrea Heisner, a nurse for the McCracken County Health Department prepares a shot for a patient. Pertussis, a disease with a readily available vaccine, kills one-in-100 victims and hospitalizes half of its patients. Some parents opt out of shots for religious reasons or out of fear over vaccine safety. Shots are considered safe by doctors and recommended for all pediatric patients.
Outbreaks of pertussis in other states underscore the importance of regular immunizations.
Andrea Heisner, local health nurse at the McCracken County Health Department, said pertussis is better known as whooping cough. It is a bacterial disease that can cause violent coughing characterized by the whooping sound made when gasping for air. It is most serious in small children. The coughing fits can cause broken ribs, nausea and pertussis can be fatal if untreated.
“The disease can be treated with antibiotics, especially early, as a child is developing symptoms,” Heisner said. “Early on, it looks like a cold, with coughing, sneezing and a low temperature. In a couple of weeks it turns into the heaving cough. You’ll know something isn’t right.”
While a test is available to determine if a cough is actually pertussis, the best plan is to avoid it entirely with a vaccine. Heisner said children routinely receive shots at ages 2, 4, 6, and 15 months, at 4 years, and then in the sixth grade. Adults can also contract the disease. While not as severe as pediatric cases, it can be spread to children who have no immunity. Parents and child-care providers should speak to their health care providers about the shot. Shots are available with pediatricians and primary care providers.
Heisner said some parents choose to avoid shots and are able to do so with a religious exemption. Some parents fear shots may cause autism because of a discredited study from England. She adds shots are safe and highly recommended for all children.
Janice Downs, director of nursing for the health department, said members of the Amish community often opt to avoid shots. Kentucky schools require all students to get the shot unless they have the religious exemption.
“We recommend this for all children, especially those under 1 year old,” Heisner said. “More than half the children who get pertussis will require hospitalization. One in 100 children with pertussis will die.”
“Stay up to date with your child’s immunizations,” added Downs.”