Grady pertussis outbreak controlled

CAIRO, Ga. -- It seems as though a recent disease outbreak is close to being defeated.

Officials with the Southwest Public Health District say the pertussis, or whooping cough, outbreak that presented itself in Grady County last month has been controlled.

"We have no new cases in Grady County, but we did get a new case with a child in Mitchell County two weeks ago," said District Epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins.

"The cluster in Grady County has been controlled, but we still want folks to be aware of the symptoms."

The Mitchell County case is the 18th confirmed case in the district since the outbreak first began -- 16 of those being children. No patients are currently hospitalized.

Vaccines for pertussis are generally offered in a series beginning at two months of age and going through to 4 to 6 years of age. One-time booster shots are available for those ages 11-64.

"The booster is free at (a resident's) health department," Jenkins said.

There are currently no plans to perform any after-hour vaccination clinics, the epidemiologist said.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection typically beginning like a cold with a nagging cough, mild fever and sneezing. After several days, the cough develops into spasms or fits that are followed in children or infants by a whooping sound as they try to catch their breath. Vomiting may follow.

In babies, the condition can cause breathing problems, pneumonia and swelling of the brain -- which in turn can lead to seizures and brain damage. Babies can die from it.

"Whooping cough is easily spread and can cause serious illness," Jenkins said. "We want kids to get vaccinated."

Officials are cautiously optimistic that there aren't any more cases floating around.

"We might have new cases pop up," Jenkins said. "We hope to not have cases, but we don't want to say it won't spread."

Jenkins added that health care workers or those that care for infants or small children should be proactive against the disease's spread.

"Those around infants should get a booster," she said.

Most hospitalizations connected to pertussis occur for children less than three months of age. The condition is generally milder in older children and adults.