Whooping cough outbreak detected in Cache Valley, officials urge vaccination

Posted at 1:37 PM, May 31, 2023

CACHE COUNTY, Utah — The local health department is urging residents in the Cache Valley to be aware of the signs of whooping cough as an outbreak was detected in one area.

The outbreak was found in the south end of Cache Valley, although exact numbers on how many people have contracted the infection were not made available.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a respiratory infection that is highly contagious and may leave a person with a severe cough that can last for weeks or months.

It can be especially dangerous to babies and people with certain pre-existing health conditions.

"The main symptom is a cough obviously," explained Estee Hunt, public information officer with the Bear River Health Department. "In younger children, it has that 'whoop' sound at the end."

Hunt explained that whooping cough can be difficult to detect right away as its symptoms are similar to that of a common cold. Testing and catching the infection early is key to a fast recovery.

For the first few weeks of the infection, people may experience a runny or stuffed-up nose, low-grade fever, mild cough and other symptoms.

"The cough is the thing that is usually presented but not right at the very beginning," Hunt said. "If you have any thought that this child or yourself has been exposed to somebody - it's not a bad idea to consider getting tested."

Later symptoms include intense coughing fits that can lead to vomiting, extreme fatigue and struggling to breathe.

"It is important for everyone to be aware of the fact that this is spreading and to get treated and see your healthcare provider if you're feeling any type of symptom or have been exposed," Hunt said.

In the United States, vaccination against whooping cough is extremely common and is administered as part of the Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis or TDAP vaccine.

Hunt warned that even if an individual is vaccinated, they could still contract the highly contagious infection - but odds are, it won't be as intense.

"Everyone is somewhat susceptible," she explained. "Those who are vaccinated usually will have a less severe illness associated with the disease."

The best way to curb infection is to practice good hygiene, Hunt said.

"We're just encouraging people of course to cover your mouth and your nose with your tissue or your elbow, using your sleeve. Please, don't cough into your hands," Hunt explained. "More than anything, wash your hands often with soap and for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water isn't available."