Seventy-eight cases related to the pertussis outbreak have been reported by the Mobile County Health Department this year. Known as whooping cough, pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease marked by uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe.

Mobile County
Mobile County, Alabama map (in red)/David Benbennick

Between May and Sept. 3, 2014, Mobile County reported 78 pertussis cases. That number is up from 27 cases reported in June 20, 2014. In all of 2013, only eight confirmed and probable cases were reported in Mobile County. Of the 78 cases reported so far in the most recent outbreak, 63 have been confirmed, health officials said. There are 13 probable cases. There are open investigations on seven of the pertussis cases.

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. This vaccine-preventable disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory discharges via the airborne route.

Pertussis goes through a series of stages in the infected person; initially an irritating cough followed by repeated, violent coughing. The disease gets its nickname by coughing without inhaling air giving thecharacteristic high-pitched whoop. Certain populations may not have the typical whoop like infants and adults.

It is highly communicable, especially in very early stages and the beginning of coughing episodes, for approximately the first 2 weeks. Then the communicability gradually decreases and at 3 weeks it is negligible, though the cough my last for months. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.

Those that are not immunized are susceptible to this disease. Young infants and school aged children (who are frequently the source of infection for younger siblings) are at greatest risk. Beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, a Tdap vaccination became mandatory for students age 11 and older entering the sixth grade in Alabama. The Tdap shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.