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11 cases of whooping cough confirmed in Buncombe County

FILE - Buncombe County health officials say there are now 11 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the county. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Health officials say there have been 11 confirmed cases of whooping cough in Buncombe County during the month of May.

On Monday, May 21, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) said there were four lab-confirmed cases of whooping cough in the county, along with three other cases that had been identified.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is an infection that affects the upper airways and is easily spread from person-to-person by coughing or sneezing.

BCHHS said health officials, schools, and medical providers are actively monitoring and screening for suspected pertussis to help reduce exposure and the spread of the illness.

“We urge caregivers and individuals to understand that this is a very contagious infection and we all have a part to play in keeping our community’s health strong,” Buncombe County Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore said in a release on Thursday. “By staying up-to-date on immunizations, you and your family can protect yourselves and vulnerable members of our community – infants, pregnant women and those who have weakened immune systems or pre-existing health conditions. A pertussis infection can be especially devastating and even deadly for these individuals which is why we must all pitch in to create a shield of protection with immunizations.”

According to BCHHS, early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to a cold and include a runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild, occasional cough. After one to two weeks, symptoms can worsen to include severe coughing fits, a high-pitched “whooping” sound when taking a breath, or vomiting after coughing fits.

Health officials advise the following steps to avoid spreading whooping cough:

  1. Immunization: Pertussis immunizations are available from your healthcare provider or from the BCHHS Immunization Clinic, located at 53 South French Broad Avenue in downtown Asheville (across the street from United Way). BCHHS Immunization Clinic offers walk-in immunizations between the hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.
  2. Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have or have been exposed to whooping cough. Anyone suspected or known to have pertussis should stay home from school, work, and all other group activities until they have finished five days of antibiotics. Staying home while sick stops the spread of illness.
  3. Practice good health habits, like frequent hand-washing or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and covering your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing

For more information on immunizations in Buncombe County, visit www.buncombecounty.org/immunize.

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