HOWLAND - There have been more confirmed cases of whooping cough reported in Trumbull County already this year than were reported in all of 2008, according to health officials.
As of Feb. 2, there were eight confirmed cases in the county. There were six confirmed cases in all of 2008.
One reason for the increase could be the way the body processes the vaccine over time.
''It is believed there has been a rise the incidents of whooping cough because the vaccine that is given to infants becomes less effective as persons grow older,'' said Sandy Swann, an epidemiologist in the Trumbull County Health Department.
The illness, which got its name from the sound made when coughing, first appears like other respiratory infections. It can be contracted by sharing utensils, not covering the mouth when coughing and being exposed to secretions of others who are ill, Swann said. It can last from two to three months and is contagious for about 21 days.
''If the cough lasts more than two weeks, I would go to a doctor,'' Swann said. ''Because this is a respiratory illness that has some of the same symptoms of the flu or the common cold, some people never bother to go to their doctor.''
Children should be immunized with the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine at 2, 4, 6 and 15 to 18 months of age and between ages 4 and 6. Children and adults should receive Td boosters every 10 years.
Howland Local Schools Superintendent John Sheets recently sent a letter to parents in the district that an H.C. Mines school student had contracted the illness. The student has been treated and has returned to school, he said.
Infants are at the greatest risk for complications. Serious complications of whooping cough include pneumonia, seizures, encephalopathy (disorders of the brain) and death. Less serious complications include ear infections, loss of appetite and dehydration.
Children should be immunized with the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine at 2, 4, 6 and 15 to 18 months of age and between 4 and 6 years of age. Children and adults should receive Td boosters every 10 years. It is recommended that DTaP be used for one of those boosters.