Whooping cough reporting takes time

WICHITA, Kansas – Health officials say, even though there are more new cases of whooping cough in Kansas, there is no need to panic.

“There are not outbreaks Sedgwick county at this time,” says epidemiologist Chris Steward with the Sedgwick County Health Department. “We call an outbreak, two or more cases that are associated in the same place and at the same time, but not from the same family.”

Steward says vaccinations are key to stopping the spread. But, reporting also allows the public to know where the disease is located in Kansas.

“We work with the state very closely. We also work with the school nurses and medical providers each day on all of our reportable diseases,” says Steward. “When we receive a report of a communicable disease, we start the investigation and we communicate with the state health department. We have software that they can see our cases and we can see our cases and so that’s how we communicate with them.”

Steward says they also get on the phone. So does the state health department.

“By state law it is required that suspected or confirmed cases that are on our reportable disease list are reported to us within four hours,” says AImee Rosenow with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “We make it easy for everyone… to report. So it could come from a healthcare provider. It can come through the local health department. And then regardless, once we get those reports we work very closely with everyone involved in the case.”

Rosenow says the state health department usually will publicly release only the confirmed cases.

“But the process for it to be reported in our case count can take up to several weeks.It is based off of onset,” explains Rosenow. “So again, some of these cases that are being investigated, even though we are in 2015, might get reported on our 2014 case count, depending on when the onset and symptoms began. The investigation process takes some time.”

Rosenow and Steward both say, if you think you have a persistent cough that gets worse, just get to the doctor.

“We call doctor to verify diagnosis. We call family if it’s an adult, to see what the symptoms are,” says Steward. “And we ask them about contacts and places that they’ve been because our main goal is to prevent the spread of disease. So we’d like to know where the person got the illness and also how many contacts the person has had since they’ve been ill so we can stop the spread.”

The number of cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, statewide since 2002 are listed below by year. It is important to note that the case counts from 2002 – 2011 include only confirmed cases.

Disease 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Pertussis 38 23 98 239 141 39 57 160 75 52 887* 405* 384*

*Since 2012, case counts have included both confirmed and probable cases.
Source: KDHE

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