Cases of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is on the increase in Salt Lake County.
During the past year the Salt Lake City-County Health Department has investigated 34 cases of pertussis. Thirteen cases were confirmed, compared to only five confirmed cases in 1987 and seven in 1989.Health officials said all 34 cases this year showed clinical symptoms and signs associated with pertussis. Eight of the infected persons required hospitalization for an average of 3.6 days.
Dr. Harry Gibbons, health department executive director, said pertussis is caused by bacteria found in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person. At first the disease resembles a common cold, accompanied by an irritating cough. The cough increases in intensity and occurs in violent and prolonged spasms with high-pitched sounds between spasms.
Severe cases result in convulsions, collapse of the lungs, pneumonia and brain damage.
Gibbons said immunization with DPT vaccine is the best way to prevent the disease. Children not protected through immunization can experience needless suffering, complications and even death, he said.
Unfortunately, health department records indicate that in recent years the percentage of children immunized against preventable childhood diseases has declined.
In the 34 pertussis cases that the health department investigated, none of the 31 children of preschool age had been properly immunized. Twenty different families were involved in the investigation, but 17 of the 34 cases involved just four families.
Gibbons said parents shouldn't fear negative reactions from the vaccine.
With the DTP vaccine, most children will have a slight fever and be irritable within two days after getting the shot. Half of the children vaccinated develop some soreness and swelling in the area where the shot was given.
Only on rare occasions are there more serious side effects, Gibbons said. The overwhelming majority of medical experts believe that the benefits of DTP far outweigh the risks.