Outbreak numbers likely to rise

Clark health workers try to get more people treated to prevent spread of pertussis.

Clark County health officials worked Monday to contain a “community outbreak” of the pertussis bacteria, or whooping cough, with 47 suspected cases now, mostly in teenagers.

“We expect numbers to go up in the next three days,” Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said.

The cases prompted the temporary closure of Rocking Horse Center’s South Limestone campus after one worker tested positive for pertussis. One of the new confirmed cases from over the weekend was a second Rocking Horse Center employee.

Rocking Horse, which sees thousands of patients yearly, has worked to notify any patients that came in contact with those two employees.

The center reopened Monday, but all staff that had a cough or were not feeling 100 percent has to be tested for the disease.

The outbreak comes on the heels of unusually high pertussis numbers not only in Clark County but the entire region.

To combat the spread of the disease, health workers are seeking out people who are more likely to catch the bacteria and give them antibiotics as a preventative measure.

“It’s not like the common cold, which will resolve on its own. You are going to need to seek medical treatment to make sure you get the right antibiotics to stop the disease,” Patterson said.

Since the health department’s press conference Friday announcing the outbreak, officials confirmed three more cases of the Bordetella pertussis respiratory infection and said dozens of test results are still to come in.

As of Monday afternoon there were 13 confirmed cases in the county, 32 suspected and 2 probable cases.

To be considered confirmed, a patient must have had the cough for two weeks, and either have a positive lab test or be in close contact with another confirmed case.

The suspected and probable cases are found by tracing who the confirmed cases live with or had close contact with.

The majority of the confirmed cases are of young teens between the ages of 14 and 16. However, the age range is between newborn and adults in their mid 30s.

Patterson said the disease is not life-threatening typically but can be much more dangerous for babies and infants.

The test is not very comfortable, according to health department epidemiologist Gabriel Jones.

“It is really not enjoyable,” Jones said.

To test for the disease, a swab is inserted into a person’s nose and it goes to the back of the throat to get a sample, according to Jones.

The test is then sent to a lab, where it takes around 24 hours for a result.

Symptoms of the disease start out like the common cold and are often misdiagnosed as bronchitis.

The reason it’s known as the whooping cough is because the sound infected people make when they cough.

Health officials said people should treat this outbreak like they would flu season: wash your hands, cover your mouth and follow other basic personal hygiene rules.

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