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Whooping cough spike prompts health advisory

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Cases of whooping cough are increasing in Oakland County and other parts of Michigan, according to health officials.

A health advisory released Wednesday urged residents to watch for signs of the "very contagious" infection, called pertussis. Infants younger than one year are most at risk.

A health advisory released Wednesday urged residents to watch for signs of the "very contagious" infection, called pertussis. Infants younger than one year are most at risk.

"Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and people are forced to inhale with a loud 'whooping' sound," officials said in a joint statement by the Oakland County Health Division and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there."

Other signs include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, a mild fever, dry cough, and red, watery eyes. Symptoms initially resemble a cold with a mild cough and/or fever, before building to the severe cough after one to two weeks.

The disease, most contagious in the first two weeks of illness, is spread when infected individuals cough or sneeze while in close contact with others.

"The State of Michigan is reporting an increase in pertussis, especially in childcare and preschool settings where children are not old enough to have received the complete five doses of vaccine to be fully immunized,” said Kathy Forzley, health officer at the Health Division. “Antibiotics are effective in treating pertussis symptoms as well as reduce the risk of a person who has been exposed to pertussis from spreading the disease to others.”

The five vaccine doses normally are scheduled for children at 2, 4, 6, 15 months and 4 years old, officials said. The vaccines do not treat current symptoms but help prevent the disease.

Immunizations are available at local physician offices, as well as Health Division walk-in clinics at 1200 N. Telegraph, Building 34 East in Pontiac and at 27725 Greenfield in Southfield.

Those experiencing symptoms are urged to seek medical care to see if antibiotics are needed.

More information about whooping cough is available online. People also may call the county's "nurse on-call" from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at (800) 848-5533.

(313) 223-4616