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Health officials declare pertussis outbreak in Lane County

As cases of whooping cough spread, officials are urging the public to get up to date on their vaccinations and are warning that adults can also be severely affected by the respiratory disease
May 16, 2024

Health officials have declared a pertussis outbreak in Lane County after identifying at least 40 suspected or confirmed cases of the bacterial infection also known as whooping cough.

Lane County Senior Health Officer Dr. Patrick Luedtke said the majority of infections are in the greater Eugene Springfield area, with one known case in Junction City.

He said infants are at the highest risk of life-threatening complications.

“If you have an infant, particularly under 3 months, now is the time to protect that infant if you haven’t done so already,” he said. “Get your TDAP, make sure anybody who comes to visit has gotten that vaccine, it's not perfect, but it's way better protection than not having that vaccination ring of safety around that baby.”

He said the earliest cases were detected at schools, but whooping cough is now spreading in the community.

It is more contagious than many other respiratory illnesses and causes a painful, long lasting cough.

“In adolescents and adults who get whooping cough - again, they’re very unlikely to have severe disease and be hospitalized,” he said, “but they can have this miserable cough, and sometimes it's severe enough it can break a rib. I’m old enough to have seen this in my practice over the last 35 years.”

Luedtke said the vaccine, DTAP for young children and TDAP for older children and adults, is effective and everyone should check to see if they are up to date.

According to Lane County Health and Human Services, there have been 120 cases statewide in Oregon this year compared to 17 at the same time last year.

Luedtke said people who suspect they or their children have whooping cough should reach out to their provider for a test. The infection looks different from allergies or other illnesses and is often accompanied by fits of coughing that can cause a distinctive “whoop” sound, vomiting and exhaustion.

It can cause pneumonia, dehydration, seizures and even brain damage, especially for infants, if left untreated.

This article was originally published by KLCC. It has been republished here with permission.