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Pertussis outbreak in Lexington spans ages, most dangerous for babies

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Pertussis outbreak in Lexington spans ages, most dangerous for babies

May 21, 2024 | 4:32 pm ET
By Sarah Ladd
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Pertussis outbreak in Lexington spans ages, most dangerous for babies
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Pertussis or whopping cough is most dangerous to babies. However, the distinctive cough is not always present, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Getty Images)

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department is reporting an outbreak of pertussis, which is commonly called whooping cough and is a highly contagious respiratory illness. 

The department said it’s confirmed nine cases since late April, including a case at Lafayette High School, one at St. Peter and Paul Catholic School and a community member in their 80s. 

“All central Kentucky caregivers should be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of pertussis, or whooping cough, while ensuring their kids are up to date on their vaccines or fully vaccinated with the booster,” the health department said. 

Pertussis outbreak in Lexington spans ages, most dangerous for babies
(Kentucky Department of Public Health)

It is also recommending that high-risk students, such as those with chronic illnesses, who were exposed to pertussis receive antibiotics as a preventative measure. 

Whooping cough can be a life threatening illness and is most dangerous for babies, according to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can, however, affect people of any age. 

Vaccines are available to children as young as 2 months old and can help prevent it, the CDC says. The recommended vaccines are DTaP for children and Tdap for preteens. Concerned parents can call their primary care providers to ask about vaccines, or call the Lexington health department at 859-288-2483 Monday-Thursday for vaccine information. 

Symptoms of whooping cough include, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Uncontrollable coughing
  • Vomiting from coughing 
  • Fever below 100.4 Fahrenheit 
  • Apnea (life-threatening pauses in breathing) and cyanosis (turning blue or purple) in infants and young children

“Any school-age children with symptoms of pertussis should stay home from school and visit their health care provider for evaluation, even if they have previously been vaccinated,” the health department said in a Monday statement. 

Pertussis outbreak in Lexington spans ages, most dangerous for babies