WEBSTER?CITY?- Health care professionals confirmed a case of pertussis in Hamilton County on Wednesday.
Pertussis is a contagious disease that can cause severe spells of coughing. It is also known as whooping cough because of the high-pitched whooping sound made when a person tries to catch one's breath during coughing spells. Untreated, the disease can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, inflammation of the brain and sometimes death, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The person affected is now receiving treatment. Public health did not identify them.
The treatment for pertussis is antibiotics. After the first five days, a person can resume normal activities.
The disease is a health risk for infants under the age of six months because they have not been fully immunized, according to Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health director.
Prevention includes being current on vaccinations, frequent handwashing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding others when coughing.
"Or just stay home when you're sick," said Kroona.
Bacteria is the culprit. It travels on the droplets from other people's coughs and sneezes. Once inhaled, it produces a toxin which prevents the lungs from clearing out fluids and germs with a productive cough. A thick mucus accumulates in the airways and results in the uncontrollable cough.
In elderly adults, there may be the possibility that instead of the presence of the characteristic whoop, a long lasting cough may develop, according to Kroona.
"In older adults, they develop what is called the '100 Day Cough,'" she said.
While state and county officials try to track the onset of communicable diseases, identifying the source of the first case includes many variables, she said.
Kroona said there is a theory that older adults, who have not recently been immunized, contract the disease. Undiagnosed, they may become carriers and spread the disease to children.
Kroona also said that because the onset of pertussis is similar to the common cold, it is hard to know if you are ill.
"It's not like you have a little fever and you go to bed," she said. "People go out and do things, not knowing that, potentially, their cough is contagious."
Wednesday's confirmation is not the first reported case of pertussis in Hamilton County this year, Kroona said.
Statewide, Iowa has seen more confirmed cases of pertussis in recent years.
The most current data for recorded cases was in 2012, Kroona said. The majority of those cases were reported in Fayette, Howard, Cerro Gordo and Worth counties, according to the IDPH. Outbreaks also occurred in the metropolitan centers of Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.
Nationwide, Kroona said that health department officials have reported a resurgence of many vaccine-preventable diseases.
Although most people received the vaccination for pertussis as an infant, protection wears off within five to 10 years, according to Kroona. For example, a teenager who received immunizations as an infant may be susceptible to the disease as a young adult.
After the initial four doses in infancy, a single dose of the Tdap booster should be repeated every 10 years, Kroona said.
Tdap is the combined vaccination for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
In 2013, the newly adopted provision of the Iowa code required that all students entering the seventh grade receive a Tdap booster, said Kroona.