By: Jenn Hatcher
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) is seeing increasing influenza activity and a rise in cases of pertussis or whooping cough. Officials encourage residents to remain current on immunizations, which can reduce the risk of contracting these diseases.
The flu virus currently circulating is primarily H1N1, the virus that caused the 2009 pandemic. Flu vaccines since then have included the H1N1 virus, so those who have been vaccinated are protected against it. The CDC recommends that everyone least six months of age and older receive the flu vaccine every year. This is especially important for those at high risk of developing serious complications, including pregnant women; the elderly; those with medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; and those with compromised immune systems. Because H1N1 has a bigger impact on the young, it is important that children, teens and young adults are immunized. Those who live with or care for others at high risk of developing complications also should be vaccinated every year.
LLCHD officials say 20 cases of pertussis have been reported in Lancaster County since late October. That compares to 40 cases reported in 2013 and 19 cases reported in 2012. Pertussis is very contagious and is most severe for babies. Pertussis is usually spread through coughing or sneezing. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by parents, older siblings or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. To protect children from pertussis, the LLCHD recommends that all those in contact with babies be vaccinated. Only one dose of the adolescent and adult vaccine is recommended for most people age 11 years and older. Babies should receive all doses of the pertussis vaccine according to the recommended schedule. Pregnant women should get vaccinated in the third trimester.
Other tips to prevent respiratory infections include the following:
• Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who have cold-like symptoms.
• Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that people frequently touch.
• If possible, stay home from work school, and public areas when you are sick.
More information on vaccines is available here.