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State reports another whooping cough case on Hawaii island

Nina Wu

The Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed Hawaii island’s 11th case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

This latest case was in a third, distinct region on the island, according to the department, and is unrelated to previous cases.

The last confirmed cases announced April 9 were among two separate households with travel-related exposures, involving school-aged children that attended schools in two geographically distinct areas of Hawaii island.

“These recent cases indicate community spread of pertussis on Hawaii Island,” said the department in a news release. “[Department of Health] strongly recommends staying up to date with pertussis vaccinations. This is very important for infants, young children, those with underlying medical conditions and their close contacts. We want to protect these vulnerable groups who are more likely to develop severe whooping cough.”

All of the confirmed cases on Hawaii island occurred in March and April, DOH said, with several recent ones occurring in infants too young to be fully vaccinated.

In February, five cases of pertussis were confirmed among members of a household visiting Oahu, including a child who was hospitalized.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by bacteria, which can spread easily from person to person through the air, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.

In its early stages, pertussis may begin like a common cold, but can cause severe coughing fits in later stages that last up to 10 weeks or more, followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound when breathing in.

Infants who catch pertussis may not cough at all but may experience life-threatening pauses in breathing or struggle to breathe.

DOH said staying up to date with pertussis vaccinations is the best way to protect you and your loved ones.

“This is very important for infants, young children, those with underlying medical conditions and their close contacts,” said DOH in the release. “We want to protect these vulnerable groups who are more likely to develop severe whooping cough.”

Most pertussis vaccinations are available from a pediatrician, family doctor or nurse practitioner. Those without health insurance can contact their community health center.

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