INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, is back in the county for the first time in at least three years, according to health officials.
Five cases were confirmed so far this year starting in April, said Maureen F. Feaster, the community health nurse consultant and supervisor of epidemiology at the Indian River County Health Department.
No link has been established among the three adults and two children with the confirmed cases, Feaster said.
"This was substantial because we have not had any cases in Indian River County for several years," Feaster said. "We have seen improvement in physician reporting and heightened public awareness, which is great for public health."
The St. Lucie County Health Department reported six cases — one lab-confirmed case and five probable cases — so far this year while the Martin County Health Department has reported none.
A typical case starts with a cough, runny nose, sneezing and a low-grade fever. After one to two weeks, the coughing becomes more severe. Rapid coughing fits can occur that often end with a whooping sound. Not all cases are typical, which is why the Indian River County Health Department encourages residents to see their doctor if they have had a cough for three weeks or more. Pertussis is spread when infected individuals cough or sneeze while in close contact with others.
"The health department strongly recommends that children and adults to be immunized," Feaster said.