Hawaii News

Unvaccinated family of five tests positive for whooping cough; child hospitalized

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The Hawai‘i Department of Health has confirmed five cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, among members of a single household – including a child who was hospitalized.

All five cases were unvaccinated. The family had traveled from the United States mainland and stayed at a hotel accommodation on O‘ahu.

The Department of Health is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other states to notify travelers who were exposed. A Department of Health investigation has identified no close contacts after the family’s arrival in Hawai‘i.

In the past five years from 2019-2023, there have been 89 confirmed and probable pertussis cases reported in Hawai‘i, including 28 cases linked to three outbreaks. Prior to the current case, the last case occurred in March of 2023.

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Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by bacteria. It can cause severe coughing fits (up to 10 weeks or more), followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound when breathing in.

Whooping cough can lead to serious complications, especially in infants, such as pneumonia, dehydration, seizures and brain damage. Infants may not cough at all. Instead, they may have apnea (life-threatening pauses in breathing) or struggle to breathe.

The best way to protect you and your loved ones is to stay up to date with recommended whooping cough vaccines, according to the Department of Health. Two vaccines used in the U.S. help prevent whooping cough: DTaP and Tdap. Children younger than 7 years old get DTaP, while older children, teens and adults get Tdap.

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Women should get a Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy to help protect their baby early in life, the health department said.

For more information about pertussis, including prevention and treatment, visit the CDC website.

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