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Whooping Cough cases nearly triple on Okinawa

Date Posted: 2008-12-31

The number of Whooping Cough cases this year is 2.7 times the number recorded in 2007, and health officials say the numbers could be even worse.

More than 125 cases have been treated this year, up from only 45 in all of 2007. The numbers could well be higher, says the Okinawa Prefecture Health Promotion Section, because its figures reflect only those who have gone to doctors for treatment. Pertussis, better known as Whooping Cough, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that infects nearly 50 million people and killing about 300,000 each year.

Long characterized as a children’s sickness, Whooping Cough has more recently been infecting adults at much higher levels. Here on Okinawa, 53% of the cases treated this year have been adults, compared with 26% for youngsters. Medical authorities say vaccinations for Whooping Cough as children become ineffective over time, making teens and adults susceptible. The disease has made its way to Okinawa Prefecture from mainland Japan.

Whooping Cough, which begins with a several-day incubation period and displays respiratory infection symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and runny nose, can quickly become more serious and become pneumonia. The bacteria is highly contagious, and those with suspected symptoms are advised to wear masks, wash hands thoroughly and often, and rinse the mouth out after entering a building from outside.

Treatment generally consists of effective antibiotics, but authorities caution those suspecting they have Whooping Cough should contact a medical doctor immediately. Officials say close contacts to someone thought to have the disease are also treated during the 7~21 day incubation period to protect them from developing symptomatic disease.

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