Pertussis Cases on the Rise in Suffolk County, NY

Jan. 5, 2024
The county’s health commissioner urges vaccination for all and early antibiotic use in people infected

According to a Dec. 30, 2023 news story from the public health department of Suffolk County in New York, pertussis cases are on the rise in the county, which encompasses about two-thirds of Long Island. Of the 108 reported cases, the vast majority of them are school-aged children and their parents.

Most of the infected individuals are vaccinated, according to the health department, leading their symptoms to be “milder than would be expected in unvaccinated persons.” No hospitalizations have been reported as a result of the outbreak thus far. According to Dr. Gregson Pigott, the Suffolk County Health Commissioner, pertussis, “also called whooping cough, can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early.” He added that “whooping cough can be very serious for infants too young to be vaccinated,” which is what led public health officials to sound the alarm about the outbreak in the first place.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection whose most common symptoms are cough, nasal congestion, and fever. Infants, especially those who are not vaccinated at all or have not completed the whole vaccine regimen, “are the most likely to have severe disease or have complications such as pauses in breathing, pneumonia, convulsions, diseases affecting the brain, and death.” The efficacy of the vaccine makes it the best method to prevent the disease or lessen its severity if contracted, and it is recommended for all children and adults.

Suffolk County health officials urge those with “symptoms consistent with pertussis [to] stay home and contact [their] health care provider for evaluation and testing.” Early antibiotic treatment is crucial to reducing the severity of symptoms, especially in infants. Additionally, certain persons who are particularly susceptible to severe illness, such as “people with weakened immune systems, infants, and women in their third trimester of pregnancy” should receive preventive antibiotics if they have been in contact with someone ill with pertussis.

Suffolk County’s website has the full news article.