About Chelyen Davis:
Chelyen Davis is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
Whooping cough cases on the rise
“This has been a busy year for pertussis for the health district,” said Dr. Brooke Rossheim, director of the Rappahannock Area Health District.
Rossheim said he and his staff have found no link between cases and no cluster of cases, such as from a single school or day care center. Patients have been all ages and from every locality in the region, except King George County, he said.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, occurs in a natural cycle that sees a rise in cases every three to five years, said Sandra Sommer, quality assurance manager for the Virginia Department of Health in Richmond.
“We reached our low point in 2007. So we’re in the middle of an upswing,” Sommer said.
Virginia counted 222 cases of the disease last year. Sommer said she does not have a statewide count yet for 2010.
“Based on what I’m seeing so far, I suspect that we’re going to have more cases reported this year than we did last,” she said.
Pertussis is a cough illness, caused by bacteria. The disease is passed from person to person through cough droplets.
When children have the disease, they can have “cough spasms,” Rossheim said, or long coughing fits. Frequently, they make a high-pitched wheeze or whoop when breathing in, hence the name whooping cough.
(For more on pertussis, see the story in tomorrow’s paper.)