Doctors on alert for whooping cough after outbreak in western N.C.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — An outbreak of whooping cough in Henderson County has health officials across North Carolina on alert.

County health officials said in one week cases there have doubled from 21 to 45.

The virus, which is most associated with an intense cough that can last for weeks, generally impacts infants.

A vaccination for whooping cough was created more than two decades ago, but recently adolescents and adults have been getting it.

Doctors are now questioning whether the vaccine needs to be given to a person multiple times.

“There’s been a push to revaccinate adolescents and adults in the form of a Tdap, so that goes along with the tetanus booster,” said Dr. Alicia Lagasca, an infectious diseases doctor at ECU.

Those tetanus boosters are supposed to be given every 10 years.

Whooping cough is very contagious and can spread quickly, especially at pre-schools and elementary schools.

“Children don’t actually complete their vaccination schedule until about the pre-school-age, so that leaves the infants very vulnerable to this,” Lagasca said. “So if adults aren’t immunized, and they have whooping cough, they can actually pass it on to susceptible infants.”

The first case of whooping cough in Henderson County was reported November 16 at an elementary school but has since spread beyond the schools.

In some cases, whooping cough can lead to hospitalization and death in infants.

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