Ed Day, Rockland County Executive

December 17, 2018
Contact: John Lyon, Director of Strategic Communications (845) 638-5645
                Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, D.O., M.P.H., CPE, DABFM, FAAFP (845) 364-2512


Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert are informing residents there have been several confirmed cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in Rockland County in the past several weeks. Due to the current Measles outbreak in the county, residents are more aware and alert about vaccine-preventable diseases. The Health Department's disease control and prevention team provide year-round monitoring of reportable communicable diseases and educate the public on the importance of vaccinations.

Seven cases of pertussis, also known as "whooping cough" were recently confirmed in individuals from various communities throughout the county and across a large age range. Pertussis cases in Rockland County have been on the decline since at least 2015, with current confirmed totals less than the total number in each of the prior three years (2015-2017).

Pertussis is a highly contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by a type of bacteria, called Bordetella pertussis. that is spread by direct contact with mucus from the nose and throat of an infected person. At first, the illness looks like the common head cold with low fever, runny nose, sneezing, but with a cough that increases in severity. Within one to two weeks, the cough worsens and is described as "coughing fits." The coughing can be so intense that individuals may gag and vomit at the end of these coughing fits. Coughing fits occur mostly at night and the characteristic whoop sound may or may not be heard. Coughing usually lasts for 1 to 2 months, but can be longer. People with pertussis are most infectious when they are having the "cold-like" symptoms and up to 3 weeks after the start of severe coughing. The time between getting exposed to the bacteria and becoming ill is commonly 7-10 days, but can be up to 21 days.

Pertussis is especially dangerous for infants and young children and, at any age, can lead to death from bacterial pneumonia. The intense coughing can cause reduction in the oxygen supply to the brain leading to seizures and encephalopathy (disorder of the brain) as well as hernias and broken ribs. Those who die from pertussis are most often infants younger than 3 months of age and for this reason pertussis vaccine is given in the early months of life with later boosters.

The most effective way to prevent pertussis is to receive pertussis containing vaccinations such as DTaP – diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis for small children, or Tdap – tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis for adolescents and adults. This is different from MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Parents, siblings, grandparents, child care providers, health care personnel, or anyone who could have contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age should have a dose of Tdap if they have not had a pertussis containing booster vaccine.

Pregnant women should receive a Tdap booster with each pregnancy. When the Tdap booster is administered to pregnant women late in the pregnancy, passive antibody transferred from mother to infant provides pertussis protection in the newborn's first 6-8 weeks of life.

Residents are advised to confirm with their health care provider that they and their family members have received all the recommended vaccines for preventable communicable diseases including but not limited to measles and pertussis. "Now is the time to make sure you and your family members are up to date on your vaccinations to help protect residents of Rockland County. We are monitoring the situation and will continue to keep residents informed about vaccine-preventable diseases in our community," said Dr. Ruppert.

To prevent the spread of illness, the Department is advising individuals who may have been exposed and who have symptoms consistent with pertussis to contact their health care provider, a local clinic, or a local emergency department before going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness.

The Health Department is asking all health care providers to immediately report all cases of suspect and confirmed pertussis to the Rockland County Department of Health Communicable Disease Program staff by calling 845-364-2997 during normal business hours, or 845-364-8600 after hours/weekends. Health Care Providers can call this number for additional information.

More information about pertussis can be found at