Mission Health offers whooping cough prevention online


Henderson County health officials have confirmed another case of whooping cough (pertussis), bringing the total to eight in the area. More than 1,000 people have come in contact with the students already diagnosed with the illness, and preventive measures can be taken.

In response to news of this outbreak of whooping cough in Henderson County, Mission Health quickly enabled a protocol within its Virtual Clinic to provide quick preventive treatment for people who have had exposure to whooping cough.  Mission Health has contacted Henderson and Buncombe county health departments to make them aware of the service, and they are communicating the option with those affected.

While there are currently no cases of pertussis reported in Macon County, Macon County Public Health Communicable Disease Nurse Rachelle Castle, noted that the county is preparing if such a need arises locally.

“Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe,” said Castle. “After coughing fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a ‘whooping’ sound. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.

• Pertussis is usually diagnosed based on clinical suspicion in presence of the typical signs and symptoms of pertussis. Confirmation is done by a nasopharyngeal swab in a physician’s office and the specimen being sent to a lab.

• Pertussis is a disease common in children everywhere, regardless of ethnicity, climate or geographic location.” Incubation periods average 9-10 days. (Control of Communicable Diseases Manual).

• Transmission is through direct contact with discharges from respiratory mucous membranes of the infected person by airborne route. Indirect spread through the air or contaminated objects may rarely occur. (Control of Communicable Diseases Manual).

• The highest incidence of pertussis as well as the highest risk for severe or fatal pertussis is in infants, but can occur in adolescents and adults.

Anyone with exposure to whooping cough who may need preventive treatment can access Mission Virtual Clinic online at www.mission-health.org/virtualclinic.  After completing a quick questionnaire, a provider will respond within one hour to inform you whether a prescription is warranted, which can then be filled out online. This can help prevent further spread so that patients do not need to go to the doctor’s office to obtain a prescription. The Virtual Clinic is not intended to treat patients with symptoms of whooping cough, and it is recommended these patients be seen in person at a clinic for immediate evaluation and treatment.

“Preventing the spread of pertussis is very important for the health of our communities.  It is important to seek preventive treatment if you have been exposed to whooping cough within the last 21 days and are at a high risk of severe illness or have close contact with a person at high risk of severe illness, such as an infant or pregnant woman. By offering the service online, we can prevent further spread of contagious disease in the community,” said Steve North, MD, Medical Director of Mission Virtual Care.

Pertussis is a preventable disease, and Mission Health encourages everyone to make sure their immunizations are up to date. Children should receive five doses of the DTaP vaccine before their sixth birthday, and teens and adults should discuss pertussis immunization with their primary care physician.


Immunization is the best prevention of Pertussis.


1. If you are pregnant, talk with your ob-gyn or midwife about getting the whooping cough shot called Tdap. CDC recommends getting it during the 27th through 36th week of each pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. Women who are pregnant should be immunized with every pregnancy. (CDC)

2. Children and adults:


Whooping Cough Vaccination Recommendations

Birth through 6 years

CDC recommends DTaP for children at:

·       2 months

·       4 months

·       6 months

·       15 through 18 months

·       4 through 6 years


11 through 18 years

CDC recommends one dose of Tdap at 11 or 12 years old:

* Teens who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen should get one dose the next time they visit their doctor

19 years and older

CDC recommends one dose of Tdap for adults who did not get Tdap as a preteen or teen.

• Tdap can be given no matter when you got your last tetanus shot.

• People should always exercise good cough etiquette:

– Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in the waste basket.

– If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.

– Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

– You may be asked to put on a facemask to protect others.

If you have been exposed to Pertussis or think you have been exposed, you should see your physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment. If you are interested in more information on vaccination or wish to be vaccinated, call (828)349-2081 for an appointment.