Piedmont experiences whooping cough outbreak; Forsyth hardest hit

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- More than half of North Carolina's cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are in the Piedmont, according to numbers from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Forsyth County has the most of any county of the state, with 90 between Jan. 1, 2013 and Sept. 6, 2013. That number has since grown to 100.

Davidson County reported 40 cases countywide, and Guilford County reported 24 cases. Randolph County reported 12 cases, and Rockingham County reported six cases.

Alamance and Stokes Counties reported eight cases, Yadkin 16, Davie six, Surry five, Montgomery two. Numbers for those counties have not been updated since Sept. 6, 2013.

In order to combat the problem, Dr. Christopher Ohl, the Medical Director for communicable diseases at the Forsyth County Health Department says almost everyone needs a vaccine to protect against pertussis, diptheria, and tetanus. The vaccine is known as Tdap in shorthand.

North Carolina requires all sixth grade school children to show proof of a Tdap vaccine by September 25th or they'll be suspended until they can bring that proof.

So far, around 750 sixth graders have not provided proof to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District. That number is 666 for Guilford County, 227 for Davidson, and 156 for Rockingham County. Alamance County did not respond to a request for its latest numbers.

There is also a treatment referred to as "cocooning," where all members of a household where whooping cough is present begin an antibiotic program to pre-empt the disease.

"We're trying to protect our young babies, so we're getting more aggressive," Dr. Ohl said.


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