Douglas County health officials say the latest outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, appears to have subsided.
But influenza is still being reported as “widespread” in Kansas, as well as most other states outside the Deep South, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Karrey Britt, spokeswoman for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said Wednesday that so far in 2013, only seven suspected cases of whooping cough have been investigated in the county.
By comparison, 214 cases were reported in Douglas County during 2012, up from only 17 cases in all of 2011. Britt said that was the result of two significant outbreaks during the year — one in the summer and another in the fall.
“It’s way better,” Britt said of the current status.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a bacterial infection. Symptoms include a violent, uncontrollable cough that often makes it hard for patients to breathe. It is most common among young children and can be fatal, especially for infants under one year of age.
Children are required to be vaccinated for pertussis before they can attend school. Last year, the county health department began urging adults to get booster vaccinations. The agency also sent out information strongly urging anyone with the disease to stay at home to prevent spreading it.
The fall outbreak coincided with an early flu season that has also been unusually bad.
Although flu cases are not required to be reported to public health agencies, the CDC and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment participate in voluntary surveillance programs to monitor the severity of seasonal outbreaks.
Most years, according to KDHE, the flu season peaks between mid-February and mid-March. That’s based on the percentage of visits to health clinics that are due to flu-like symptoms.
This season, however, reported flu symptoms reached normal peak levels in late December and have remained elevated far above normal since then. Since mid-January, the numbers have hovered around 5 percent of all office visits. That compares with about 3 or 4 percent at the peak of the flu season in each of the last two years.