The pertussis outbreak in Clark County has slowed, but the area remains among the Ohio counties with the highest concentration of the disease.
There are more than 1,200 confirmed cases of the disease, also known as whooping cough, in Ohio and nearly 80 cases have been confirmed in Clark County, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson said Clark County has had 77 confirmed cases of pertussis since January (ODH reports 78) and 47 of those cases were diagnosed since since Oct. 1. There are also 92 suspected and three probable cases for 2013.
But Patterson said officials are not diagnosing one patient with pertussis per day as they had previously.
“It has slowed down,” Patterson said. “Hopefully, it’s attributed to the fact that more people are getting vaccinated and more are aware of this and are staying home if they are diagnosed with it.”
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease known for uncontrollable, violent coughing that often makes it hard to breathe.
Signs of the disease include runny nose, low-grade fever and an initial mild cough. As the disease progresses, the coughing will become more rapid and is followed by a high-pitched “whoop,” vomiting or exhaustion.
Whooping cough can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications, permanent disability and even death, especially in infants and young children, according to the FDA.
Statewide, Clark, Madison, Pickaway, Licking, Delaware and Richland counties have the highest rates of the disease, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Clark County has the highest rate in the state.
Dr. Mary DiOrio, an epidemiologist for ODH, said Franklin County had a pertussis outbreak in 2010 and speculated that the high concentration of the disease in Clark and other counties could be due to waning immunity and mulitple other factors.
“We definitely have a lot of cases. We could have our highest year this year (since 2010). It could go either way. It’s hard to predict,” DiOrio said.
Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there were 48,277 cases of pertussis nationwide last year, compared to 22,304 cases reported to the agency so far this year.
He said the whooping cough cases tend to be “very cyclical,” but studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicate that the rising number of cases is due in part to changes to the vaccine in the 1990s.
McDonald said the new vaccine is good at “protecting someone from getting ill, but does not stop the spread.”
He also said the spread of the disease is not likely to be due to parents opting not to vaccinate their children as more than 90 percent kindergarten age children nationwide are vaccinated.
Patterson urged area residents to continue to take precautions to prevent the disease.
“People should still remain vigilant and if they have contemplated getting vaccinated, I still recommend getting the vaccine,” Patterson said.
The Springfield News-Sun broke the story about a Clark County pertussis outbreak in November and is committed to covering news about important public health issues and how they impact you. We will continue to keep you informed about this important story.
Pertussis cases in Clark County
2011 - 10 cases investigated
2012 - 15 investigated, 8 confirmed
2013 - 172 investigated, 77 confirmed, 97 suspected
Source: Clark County Combined Health District
Pertussis outbreaks in neighborhoing counties
77 - Licking
70 - Delaware
54 - Richland
34 - Madison
26 - Pickaway
Souce - Ohio Department of Health