CHARLESTON, W.Va.--After reports of pertussis surfaced in the county, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department officials are stressing the importance of getting regular immunizations.
Officials earlier confirmed reports of a child with pertussis attending the U.S. Martial Arts Tournament in St. Albans as well as a student attending school in Kanawha County.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is caused by the bacteria bordetella pertussis and is highly contagious. The respiratory disease is most commonly spread person-to-person by coughing or sneezing close to others.
At the beginning, pertussis mimics the common cold. Later on, symptoms include coughing fits, vomiting, exhaustion from coughing and a cough lasting up to 10 weeks.
Anyone can get it, but it's most harmful to unvaccinated infants, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.
Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 85 cases of pertussis in West Virginia.
Dr, Rahul Gupta, Kanawha-Charleston health department executive director, said pertussis was prevalent in the 1920s-40s but vaccines have brought rates down.
"Then, you don't see it anymore and people get lax a little bit, asking, 'Why should I inject foreign substances in my child's body or mine?'<!p><#148> Gupta said.