Lane County Public Health declares community-wide pertussis outbreak

Lane County Public Health declares community-wide pertussis outbreak
Posted on 05/15/2024

Lane County Public Health (LCPH) has declared a community-wide pertussis outbreak due to a surge in cases surpassing typical community, regional, or seasonal expectations. In the last 7 days, the number of presumptive and confirmed cases has doubled, putting the total number of cases at nearly 40, with more awaiting lab results. While some of the cases are linked, there are sporadic cases scattered throughout the area indicating community spread. So far in 2024, there have been 120 cases statewide in Oregon, as compared to 17 at this time last year. LCPH emphasizes the urgency for the community to implement precautionary measures to mitigate further spread of this highly contagious respiratory infection.


“We are seeing a number of cases in very young children and at-risk populations,” said LCPH Deputy Health Officer Dr. Lisandra Guzman. “Their health depends on our actions, so now is the time to do everything we can to protect them.”


Recognizing the severity of pertussis, especially for vulnerable populations such as infants, pregnant people, young children, and individuals with underlying medical conditions, LCPH emphasizes the importance of getting tested at the earliest onset of symptoms, staying up to date with pertussis vaccinations, and practicing good respiratory hygiene. This is especially crucial for pregnant people and those in close contact with young children.


Infants and children younger than 7 years old should adhere to the DTaP vaccination series, while adolescents are advised to obtain a single dose of Tdap, ideally at age 11 or 12, to bolster community immunity. Pregnant people should receive a Tdap during the third trimester of each pregnancy to provide vital protection for themselves and their infants. Adults should also receive at least 1 dose of Tdap vaccine, and can receive one every 10 years. Pertussis vaccination is available through your primary care provider, local pharmacies, and for those without insurance, a Federally Qualified Health Center.


Pertussis, commonly called "whooping cough," is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. Pertussis can spread through the air when infected people cough or sneeze. In an unvaccinated population, one case of pertussis can cause as many as 16 new cases. Pertussis usually starts with mild upper respiratory symptoms that can sometimes mimic seasonal allergies, the common cold, or even influenza, underscoring the importance of timely testing for those individuals in close contact with a vulnerable person.


Symptoms also include prolonged coughing fits, often accompanied by a distinctive "whoop" sound during inhalation, gagging or vomiting while coughing, and exhaustion. Complications, if left untreated, especially in infants, can be severe and include pneumonia, dehydration, seizures, and even brain damage.


Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or your child is:


  • struggling to breathe.


  • turning blue or purple.


    LCPH recommends practicing good hygiene to prevent the spread of the bacteria that cause pertussis and other respiratory illnesses:


  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.


  • throw away used tissues in a waste basket right away.


  • cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow if you don't have a tissue. never cough into your hands, as pertussis can be spread this way.


  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.


  • use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.


  • stay home when you are sick.


In the event of a pertussis diagnosis, adherence to prescribed antibiotics and isolation from others until you are no longer infectious is crucial. Individuals can transmit the bacteria from the onset of symptoms for up to three weeks after coughing fits begin.


For more information about pertussis prevention and treatment, visit the LCPH website, at