In the past month, there have been two outbreaks of preventable disease in Kansas. In early January, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported six cases of measles in Finney County, located in western Kansas. KDHE also is investing an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Riley County, which totaled four as of February 1.
Both are highly contagious respiratory diseases. Measles is caused by a virus, while pertussis is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Measles causes fever, runny nose, tiredness, cough and a blotchy rash all over the body. It is spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. It is so contagious that any person who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease. Measles can be spread to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.
Pertussis is marked by a cough that lasts longer than two weeks and is also accompanied with at least one of the following symptoms: paroxysms of coughing, inspiratory “whoop,” and post-tussive vomiting without any other cause. The disease can also cause pneumonia, seizures, hypoxia and encephalopathy.
These viruses are relatively rare in the U.S. However, when there is an outbreak, it’s important to protect yourself.
RN Kelley Newsom, the infection control coordinator at NMC, offers these suggestions:
- Avoid contact with anyone who has respiratory systems.
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing (preferably by using the bend of your elbow).
- Use tissues to contain respiratory secretions. Dispose of used tissues in a waste receptacle.
- Practice proper hand hygiene after contact with mucus and contaminated objects (wash using soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizer or an antiseptic hand wash).
- Stay home if you exhibit these symptoms: fever, runny nose, tiredness, cough and a blotchy rash on the body.
Also, talk to your doctor about whether your vaccines are up to date. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not receive some vaccines. Anyone considering the vaccine should talk with a doctor first.
The KDHE contributed to this report.