DOBSON — With the recent confirmation of three cases of whooping cough in the last few weeks, health officials are urging those with school-aged kids to have them vaccinated against the contagious disease.
Pertussis, the disease known as whooping cough, cases have been on the rise nationally, and that trend has hit Surry County, according to Surry County Health Director Samantha Ange.
“We want to stress the importance of making sure everyone is up-to-date with their Tdap vaccine. Anyone that is around small children, parents, caregivers or grandparents — should check to make sure their vaccine is current to prevent spreading pertussis to babies,” said Ange.
The timing couldn’t have been worse, as parents are gearing up to send their kids back to school in the next week, Ange said.
“This is a very critical time of the year, in that schools will be back in session soon. Pertussis is very contagious, and full immunity takes about four weeks after getting the vaccine,” Ange said.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Al Delia has urged parents to immunize their children and other adult family members against infection diseases such as pertussis, which continues to be on the rise across the county.
In North Carolina schools, immunization records are checked at the beginning of each school year, with special emphasis at the start of kindergarten and at the start of the sixth grade.
Secretary Delia also stressed that older family members often serve as carriers of pertussis and can easily spread it to vulnerable infants and young children, so they should be immunized as well. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.
August not only marks the beginning of school for most in North Carolina, but it is also recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month.
“Back to school time is a good opportunity to see that everyone in your household is up to date on required vaccinations,” Delia said. “We have seen a dramatic increase in pertussis cases in North Carolina and across the county this year, so we need a community-wide effort to prevent further spread of the disease.”
More than 366 cases of pertussis have been reported in North Carolina since the beginning of the outbreak in November of 2011. Alamance County has seen 153 cases.
In response to the increase in whooping cough cases outbreak, NCDHHS has made the Tdap vaccine available to anyone at no cost for a limited time. In addition to pertussis, all children in North Carolina must be vaccinated against: Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Hib Disease, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus and varicella (chicken pox).
Some children through the age of 18 are eligible to receive their immunizations at no cost through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program which provides vaccines to those who are Medicaid eligible, American Indian, Alaskan native, uninsured or under insured. There is no fee for the cost of the VFC vaccine for eligible children, however a provider may charge an administrative fee.
More details on school immunization requirements in North Carolina, as well as details about the VFC program can be found by visiting the North Carolina Immunization Branch website at www.immunize.nc.gov.