Kitsap County is experiencing an outbreak if pertussis (“whooping cough”) cases, with most cases in school-aged children in North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island, according to the County Public Health District Thursday.

Kitsap County map/David Benbennick
Kitsap County map/David Benbennick

As of January 29, there have been 55 cases of pertussis reported to Kitsap Public Health since June 2014.  Nineteen cases have occurred since the beginning of January. Generally, Kitsap County sees about 14 cases per year.

Pertussis, a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough, is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis.

Pertussis is a very contagious disease only found in humans and is spread from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease, according to the CDC.  Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 5–10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as 3 weeks.

Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. This extreme coughing can cause you to throw up and be very tired. The “whoop” is often not there and the infection is generally milder (less severe) in teens and adults, especially those who have been vaccinated.

The best way to prevent pertussis (whooping cough) among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. Also, keep infants and other people at high risk for pertussis complications away from infected people.

In the United States, the recommended pertussis vaccine for infants and children is called DTaP. This is a combination vaccine that protects against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

In 2013, there were 28,639 pertussis cases reported in the United States with 748 cases in Washington state. In 2012, nearly 50,000 cases were reported nationwide, including more than 4,900 in Washington.