CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The number of Pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Hamilton County continues to rise. To date, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department has confirmed 21 cases, which is a significant increase over previous years and reflects a similar trend across the U.S., according to a press release from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

Sixteen of the 21 cases have been in children younger than 6 years old. Pertussis can be very serious in infants and young children and may cause life-threatening complications, especially in those who are not fully vaccinated. Complications can include pneumonia, seizures, apnea (stop breathing), inflammation of the brain, and death.

Persons with symptoms of Pertussis should contact their medical provider right away, regardless of vaccination status. The first symptoms of

Pertussis are similar to a cold: sneezing, runny nose, possibly a low-grade fever, and a cough. Although a cough can be present with other respiratory illnesses, coughs with the following characteristics may indicate Pertussis:

  • a severe cough that occurs in sudden, uncontrollable bursts where one cough follows the next without a break for breath
  • a high-pitched whooping sound when breathing in after a coughing episode; more common in children, less common in infants and adults
  • vomiting during or after a coughing spell
  • the person's face or lips may look blue from lack of oxygen 

Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics may also be given to close contacts of persons with Pertussis to prevent the spread of disease. If you have Pertussis, stay home and avoid close contact with others, especially infants and young children.