The Evanston Health & Human Services Department has seen a recent increase in pertussis, or whooping cough, cases, and is encouraging residents to confirm that their vaccinations are up to date.

Pertussis is a highly infectious and usually mild illness that is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing. Initial symptoms of pertussis are similar to those of the common cold: runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild occasional cough. The cough can become severe, turning into fits of coughing – sometimes with a distinctive “whooping” sound – that can last for weeks and can progress to vomiting between bouts of coughing. Symptoms usually appear 5-10 days after exposure, but can take as long as 21 days to appear. While it is possible for people to be infected with pertussis even if they have been vaccinated against it, vaccination remains the best way to prevent illness.

Anyone with a coughing illness lasting greater than or equal to two weeks experiencing sudden fits of cough, “whoop,” or vomiting after cough, without other known cause, should consider contacting their doctor to be evaluated for pertussis. Most people recover completely from pertussis, but complications from the disease can be severe in high-risk groups, especially infants under one year, pregnant women, and persons who have not been fully immunized against the disease or with weakened immune systems. Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics.

Protection against pertussis from the childhood vaccine, DTaP, decreases over time. Older children and adults, including pregnant women, should get a pertussis booster shot called “Tdap” to protect themselves and infants around them.

Evanston Health & Human Services Director Ike Ogbo stated as a reminder that ill persons should stay home from work or school. In addition, Mr. Ogbo advised that frequent hand-washing and respiratory hygiene, including covering your cough, coughing into tissues, and disposing of tissues promptly, are important practices that help to limit the spread of infection.

For more information, please contact the Evanston Health & Human Services Department by calling/texting 847-448-4311, or 311.