Health officials in Western North Carolina are still fighting against a whooping cough outbreak, with the number of cases in Henderson County rapidly increasing in recent weeks.
In a 10-day span that ended Monday, confirmed whooping cough cases jumped from 21 to 51, according to multiple media reports.
The illness, also known as pertussis, is a contagious respiratory infection that causes airways to swell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whooping cough causes violent and rapid coughing and can be particularly harmful for babies, according to the agency.
The outbreak started in November, initially affecting eight students at Henderson County schools.
During that month, more than 500 students were reported to have come in contact with someone who had the illness. That number has since jumped to more than 1,000 people, as the infection has now spread from students to other community residents, TV station WLOS reported.
The outbreak has intensified so much that a hospital in Henderson County enacted a restriction on visitors, according to the Hendersonville Times-News. Restrictions include a ban on hospital visitors younger than 18 and a ban on hospital visitors with cough or other whooping cough symptoms.
The best way to prevent the spread of whooping cough is through vaccination, health experts said. DTaP, the recommended vaccination for babies, helps prevent two other illnesses in addition to whooping cough, according to the CDC.
LaVendrick Smith: 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS