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Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at

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Health department director: Free whooping cough vaccines available for adults

Flu season isn’t over yet and whooping cough continues to make a comeback: Those were two pieces of information the director of the Rappahannock Area Health District passed along this week.

Dr. Brooke Rossheim, the health district director, spoke at the King George Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

He said it’s been a mild year for flu, but “we’re not out of the woods yet. Flu season can go into May.”

Rossheim also reminded King George residents that cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, have been increasing in recent years. Last fall, the health district decided to try to combat the spread of the childhood disease by giving free vaccines to adults who work with children.

Those free vaccines are still being offered in health departments in the Fredericksburg region, Rossheim said. They’re available during regular immunization clinics.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection, passed though the cough droplets of an infected person. When children have the disease they can have cough spasms, or long coughing fits. Frequently they make a high-pitched wheeze or whoop when breathing in, hence the name whooping cough.

“It’s a cough that goes on for weeks,” Rossheim said in a September 2011 story by Jim Hall, medical reporter for The Free Lance–Star.