Prevent Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

health officials advise vaccination for children and adults

pertussis babyNorth GACases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are on the rise and state and local public health officials are working together to identify and notify students and residents that have possibly been exposed.

The best protection against whooping cough is the pertussis vaccine. Babies, teens, adults, and pregnant women need to be vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended schedule. If you aren’t vaccinated, you aren’t protected.

For babies, protection against whooping cough can start before they are even born. During pregnancy, women should get the Tdap vaccine, a shot combining protection against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.  Also, other people, including grandparents, siblings and babysitters, should get their pertussis vaccine at least two weeks before coming into contact with a baby.

Babies begin their series of vaccines against whooping cough at 2 months of age with their first dose of DTaP. Like Tdap, this shot combines protection against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. The series is completed by getting additional doses at 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years of age. Since the protection the DTaP vaccine provides young children decreases over time, preteens need the Tdap booster shot at 11 or 12 years old. The CDC recommends one dose of Tdap for adults who did not get Tdap as a preteen or teen.

If you or your child has been around someone with whooping cough, you may become sick with it, as well. This is especially true when you or your child has not received all recommended pertussis vaccinations. Sometimes, even if your shots are up to date, you may still get whooping cough, but the symptoms are usually milder with a shorter illness and it is less likely to spread.

Pertussis is also called whooping cough because of the “whooping” sound that comes from gasping for air after a fit of coughing, making it difficult to breathe. Coughing fits due to pertussis infection can last for up to ten weeks or more. But even worse, pertussis can cause serious and potentially life-threatening complications in infants and young children who are unvaccinated or under vaccinated. Children younger than 1 who contract pertussis are more prone to hospitalization, acquiring pneumonia, convulsions, apnea, and encephalopathy, and 1 percent will die.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and cough, which becomes much worse over 1 to 2 weeks.  Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (“coughing fits”) followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. There is generally only a slight fever. People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching breath. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.

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Public Health urges two separate shots against Chickenpox

chickenpox childTakes 2 Shots to Beat Chickenpox!

N. GA Health District - Chickenpox is highly contagious and the majority of confirmed cases are in children who are not vaccinated. Chickenpox and shingles are both caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults and people with weakened immune systems.

 

The best way to protect against chickenpox is to get the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, and the CDC recommends two doses of chickenpox vaccine for children, adolescents, and adults. Children should receive the first dose at 12 through 15 months old and a second dose during ages 4 to 6.

 

The North Georgia Health District and County Health Department officials urge that if anyone or their children have not yet received the recommended doses of chickenpox vaccine, contact the local county health department (contact information is accessible by clicking the above LOCATIONS tab) or call a private healthcare provider.

 

Chickenpox spreads easily from infected people to others who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. Chickenpox spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.

 

Just as with other vaccine preventable diseases, the best prevention of chickenpox is vaccination, and even though some people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can still get the disease, their symptoms are usually milder with fewer blisters and with low or no fever. Before the vaccine, chickenpox was very common in the United States. About 4 million people would get chickenpox every year with over 10,000 hospitalizations and 100 to 150 deaths.

 

Two doses of vaccine are about 90% effective at preventing chickenpox. When vaccinated, people protect themselves and others in their communities. This is especially important for people who cannot get vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems or pregnant women.

 

Chickenpox most commonly causes an illness that lasts about 5-7 days. The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs. The rash may first show up on the face, chest, and back then spread to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. It usually takes about one week for all the blisters to become scabs. Other symptoms that may appear a day or two earlier are fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headache. Children may miss 5 to 6 days of school or childcare due to chickenpox.

 

Find more information about chickenpox from the CDC at www.cdc.gov/chickenpox.

Twelve North Georgians Receive Post-Exposure Rabies Treatment

Two puppies and a kitten test positive for rabies

Rabies VirusDalton (GA) – North Georgia Health District officials announced today that twelve people are currently receiving post-exposure rabies treatment due to contact with domestic animals that have now tested positive for the disease.

  

Within the past two weeks, two puppies and a kitten have been confirmed by the Georgia Public Health Laboratory as having rabies. All three pets were too young to receive rabies vaccinations. One of the puppies was in Whitfield County and the other was in Gilmer County. The kitten was in Cherokee County. In each case, the pet was attacked by a rabid wild animal and bitten in the head, but it was not reported to veterinarians or health authorities until rabies symptoms developed in the pet.

  

The time between being bitten by the wild animal and onset of rabies symptoms was very short because the head bites were close to the brain. The rabies virus only travels through the nervous system to the brain, not through blood or other organs. The closer a bite is to the brain, the shorter time it takes to reach the brain.

  

Wild animals that transmitted rabies to the puppies and kitten were a skunk, a raccoon and, possibly, a coyote.

  

The fact that these unrelated cases occurred in separate areas of the North Georgia Health District within the past two weeks is a coincidence, and even more coincidental is that all pets involved were too young to vaccinate. Pets must be at least three months old to be vaccinated against rabies.

  

Parents are strongly cautioned to keep children away from wild animals, strays and unvaccinated pets that may have been in contact with wild animals. Vaccinate all dogs and cats at three months of age and no later.

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Dawnville Road puppy tests positive for rabies

rabies picDalton (GA) – On July 12, the Georgia Public Health Laboratory reported to the Whitfield County Environmental Health office that a poodle-mix puppy from the 900-block area of Dawnville Road in Whitfield County was rabid.

Anyone who may have had contact with this cream-colored puppy should contact Whitfield County Environmental Health at 706-272-2005 or the North Georgia Health District at 706-529-5757, extension 1161. Because the rabies virus can be present in the saliva of an animal before it shows symptoms of rabies, health authorities need to talk to anyone who had physical contact with the puppy since June 27 to evaluate their need for preventative rabies treatments.

Once symptoms of rabies start to develop in a human, there is no cure and death is almost certain. If anyone thinks they may have been exposed to rabies, seek medical care at once.

The puppy was too young for a rabies vaccination when a skunk attacked it several weeks ago, biting it in the head and transmitting rabies. There have been three additional rabid skunks in Whitfield County this year.

The rabies virus is transmitted in the saliva of the rabid animal through bites that break the skin or by exposure of the saliva to mucous membranes of the nose or eyes. Puppies lick, gnaw and chew by their nature, so a lick to a fresh wound would also be an exposure to rabies.

Health authorities need to talk with persons who had these kinds of exposures to the saliva of the puppy within the two weeks before it started to become ill on July 7. Simply being around the puppy or handling it would not require rabies treatments. Contact with the saliva is the most important factor in transmitting rabies.

Children should be warned to avoid any contact with stray dogs, cats and wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, bats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and other wild carnivores. Bites from any of these animals need immediate medical attention. Be certain all pets are currently vaccinated against rabies. Livestock are also susceptible to rabies and can be vaccinated by a veterinarian.

More information about rabies may be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html.

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