(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Mosaic Life Care sent out a cautionary warning to parents after they said a potential case of pertussis (whooping cough) was detected in the St. Joseph area.
On the Mosaic Pediatrics Facebook page Tuesday evening, the hospital stated that "there is a suspected case of pertussis in our community", and followed it up with what parents should be aware of when it comes to the illness.
"We don't want a big mass hysteria over pertussis but it can be easily spread and is so dangerous for babies that we think it's important to get that information out there," Dr. Amanda Williams, Pediatric Doctor with Mosaic Life Care, said.
Whooping cough has been described as a serious respiratory infection that's caused by the pertussis bacteria. In a lot of cases, the disease can begin similar to the common cold which can make early detection difficult.
"You are likely not to develop symptoms for five to 10 days but it can be even up to 21 days after exposure that you can develop symptoms, and so that can be concerning," Williams said. "We may have had exposures that we may not be aware of."
While the St. Joseph Health Department would not confirm a case of whooping cough locally, the St. Joseph School District did tell KQ2 News that they can confirm NO diagnosis of any disease has been made throughout the district.
Coordinator of Health Services for the district Maria Burnham said the schools were asked by the St. Joe Health Department to send a letter to the parents of kids that may have potentially been subject to exposure simply as a precaution. The letter stated the warning signs and symptoms of whooping cough, along with what parents should do if they suspect their child may be showing signs.
"There's just potential for exposure - kind of like potential for exposure to anything out there," Burnham said. "In this particular case we've been asked to share that information with those involved and we're always trying to be ahead of the game."
Burnham said the best way to protect children against pertussis is to have them vaccinated. Doctors recommend that children get five doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shot (called DTaP). The ages of when a child needs that shot are: two months, four months, six months, 15 through 18 months, and four through six years.
"I'm a big advocate for immunizations, and just make sure your students or your kids' immunizations are current," Burnham said.
Children one year of age or younger are most at risk for developing serious complications from the disease, Williams said. She added that 13,500 cases of whooping cough were reported in the U.S. in 2018, and one in every 1,350 patients died.
However, Williams said one in every 600 patients with influenza dies on average a year. She said the flu can be just as, or even more deadly than pertussis, and that children should be vaccinated against both.
"We like to push and protect the youngest and the sickest in our population but influenza kills many, many children that are otherwise healthy every year," Williams said. "That's why I always want to put that push out there to patients and families, that the flu vaccine is important and that's why."
Anyone with questions about the whooping cough or flu vaccine is advised to contact their local physician.
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