Whooping cough outbreak still on the rise, but slower

Island County health officials are cautiously optimistic that the outbreak of pertussis may have peaked.

With the number of confirmed cases at 31 as of Friday afternoon, Island County Medical Officer Roger Case said the disease is not spreading as rapidly as earlier in the week.

“The extensive publicity has heightened awareness, especially on South Whidbey,” Case said.

Most of the cases are concentrated on the southern part of the island.

Case is still warning people away from public gatherings if they have not been immunized.

“Those who have been immunized within the last two years are OK,” Case said. “But my guess is that fully 95 percent of adults have not been immunized and if they attend an event where there’s a lot of people, they are at risk.”

“If a child has cold symptoms or is coughing, they should stay home and see a physician as soon as possible,” Case said. “They should not attend any camps or swim lessons, go to church or the movies. People are contagious with pertussis until they have completed a five-day course of antibiotics.”

Case added he isn’t recommending that visitors avoid coming to the island, just that they be aware that if they are not fully immunized, they are at increased risk.

Langley Chamber of Commerce director Joan Stanley said she had been contacted by mainland news organizations inquiring if people were canceling bed-and-breakfast reservations.

“We have had no reports of any cancellations,” she said.

Freeland pediatrician Dr. Robert Wagner said late Thursday that the extensive publicity has helped to both stem people’s fears and encouraged others to get a check-up.

“There’s no problem with folks engaging in normal activities, but parents need to be watchful in case their children start showing pertussis symptoms,” Wagner said.

He added that most of his cases have been in the 8-to-12 age group and he thinks the whooping cough “mini-epidemic” may have run its course.

“There’s still of a lot of testing going on, though,” he added.

Reaction to the outbreak of whooping cough on South Whidbey had varied wildly in the past week.

It left three South Whidbey

Little League teams unable to play games in a tournament in Oak Harbor.

However, the 13/14 age All Star team will be allowed to play a single elimination championship game, coach Andy McRea said Friday.

The boys have had a five-day antibiotic treatment and will tentatively play Monday in Mount Vernon if league officials approve.

While three Little League teams were withdrawn from a tournament in Oak Harbor, other events where kids were gathering were still planned to go on as scheduled.

The Freeland Library didn’t cancel a Friday night movie for teenagers, for example, and the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District decided against cancelling any of its day camp programs.

The parks district has taken precautions, said director Terri Arnold.

“We sent warning information home to parents from the county’s health department,” she said. “It is the parent’s responsibility to know if their child is healthy or not.”

“All our counselors and junior counselors have reviewed hygienic practices and we’re taking the situation seriously,” Arnold added.

Parks employees are also monitoring children for evidence of coughing, she said. “There is no panic, just intense awareness.”

Most of the cases so far have involved young children.

Rosemary Leahy at the Bayview Senior Center said she hasn’t heard of any seniors with the disease.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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