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Health officials: Whooping cough cases confirmed at 4 Buncombe County schools

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) announced four lab-confirmed cases of whooping cough in Buncombe County schools on Monday. Three other cases have been identified which are connected to the four lab-confirmed cases. (Photo credit: MGN)

Health officials have confirmed four cases of whooping cough in Buncombe County. Three other cases have been identified, which are connected to the four lab-confirmed cases.

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) announced the cases on Monday, adding that all cases are students at four different schools within the county.

BCHHS says whooping cough (pertussis) is an infection that affects the upper airways and is easily spread from person-to-person by coughing or sneezing. Anyone can get pertussis, but it is especially dangerous and can even be deadly for babies.

According to health officials, early symptoms of pertussis include:

  • Runny nose;
  • Low-grade fever; and
  • Mild, occasional cough.
  • Infants may have a pause in their breathing, known as apnea.

After one to two weeks, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • Severe coughing fits or spells, followed by a high-pitched "whoop" sound when a breath is taken;
  • Vomiting (throwing up) after coughing fits, especially in young children; and
  • Exhaustion (feeling very tired) after coughing fits.
  • The illness can be less severe and the typical "whoop" can be absent in teens and adults, especially those who have been immunized against pertussis.

BCHHS advises the community to take the following actions to protect their families against whooping cough:

  1. Get immunized: You can get the Tdap vaccination from your healthcare provider or from the BCHHS Immunization Clinic at 53 South French Broad Ave. in downtown Asheville (across the street from United Way). The Immunization Clinic offers walk-in immunizations between 8 a.m.– 5 p.m. (Monday-Friday; patients are asked to check-in by 4:30 p.m.)
  2. Practice good health habits: Wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizers, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  3. See your health care providers if you think you are sick with pertussis: Early diagnosis and treatment of pertussis is very important to prevent spread of the infection.
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