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Whidbey’s whooping cough outbreak may have run its course

The virulent outbreak of pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, may be on the downward path.

“The rate is slowing considerably,” said Island County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roger Case. “But it isn’t over yet.”

As of late Monday, there were 45 cases of whooping cough confirmed, with six probable and 20 suspect cases, for a total of 71 since the outbreak started May 19.

All those affected were children except for seven adults, and all but 12 cases originated in Coupeville or the South End.

Normally, Island County reports two or three cases per year.

With the number of new cases declining, Case said he will no longer advise people to avoid group settings.

“I intend to discontinue the recommendation to exclude unimmunized or under-immunized people from attending public setting activities such as camps or meetings once our investigation of the pertussis cases reaches the point at which the last date of onset of symptoms is two weeks,” Case said.

“At this time, the last date-of-onset was July 18, and if that remains the most current, then Aug. 2 would be the date for withdrawing that recommendation,” he explained.

Freeland pediatrician Dr. Robert Wagner said things seem to be simmering down, but only a bit.

“We got some positive tests back this morning,” he said. “We’re still seeing people who had it but didn’t report it for some reason, but, overall, folks are being much more positive, thanks to the publicity.”

Wagner said he will lead a discussion on the value of vaccinations at

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6 at the Freeland Library.

Of those affected this summer, those who suffered most were the 9- and 10-year-olds of the South Whidbey Little League All Star team.

They were in the process of playing championship games in Oak Harbor when the word came from league officials that they wouldn’t be allowed to play.

Dennis Hunter, whose son Kohl played third base with the All Stars, said the kids were devastated.

“For his parents, it was never really alarming, just a little scary,” Hunter said. “After he started coughing hard, we took him to Dr. Wagner.”

Kohl was administered antibiotics over a five-day period, and his parents kept him away from crowds until his health started improving.

“We stayed low until he got better, just to be safe,” Hunter said. “He has a little nagging cough, but he’s not a danger to anyone else.”

Monday afternoon, Kohl shrugged into shoulder pads as the 2008 South Whidbey Youth Football season began. He hopes to snag a position at fullback or linebacker.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. The greatest risk of spread is during the early stage, when it appears to be a cold.

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