December 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Pertussis. Whooping Cough. What do you think about when you hear these words? There have been a lot of news reports in recent months about Pertussis and about Pertussis outbreaks across the country and in our State.

Pertussis is caused by the bacteria (Bordetella pertussis). It is spread from person to person through the air by droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A non-infected person breathes in the droplets and gets sick. Whooping Cough is one of the most highly communicable childhood diseases. Even in immunized populations like those in the United States, outbreaks occur. Adults may carry the bacteria without symptoms but they transmit the disease to children, especially when immunization rates decrease.

Pertussis begins with cold like symptoms. These include a runny nose, sneezing, low grade fever, and coughing. After a few weeks, the cough gets much worse. The cough is often much worse at night. The cough is uncontrollable and one cough may follow another and another without a break. Vomiting frequently occurs after coughing. Many children will make a high pitched “whooping” sound when breathing in after a coughing episode. The cough can last for several weeks or months! If you have a cough that lasts for two weeks or longer, please see your healthcare provider.

Pertussis is treated with antibiotics and treatment is important in preventing the spread of the disease to others. Antibiotics may also be given to close contacts of persons with Pertussis to prevent them from getting sick. Persons who are sick with Pertussis can infect other people during the first three weeks they are coughing. Cough medicines are not helpful.

Pertussis in infants is often severe and life threatening. Infants are more likely to develop complications like pneumonia and seizures. Older children and adults can get Pertussis but it is usually less severe. They can however still spread the disease to younger children and infants.

There is a vaccine for Pertussis. The vaccine is given in combination with the tetanus vaccine and the diphtheria vaccine. Children under age seven should get five DTap shots at 2,4,6,12-15 months and again at 4-6 years of age. Adolescents should get a booster usually at 11 years of age. Adolescents 13-18 years of age should receive a booster if they have not received a tetanus shot within the past five years. Adults should receive a booster if they are in contact with infants that are less than 12 months of age, are elderly, or work in the healthcare industry. If you are pregnant, check with your healthcare provider. There are new recommendations based on studies that show a pregnant woman who receives a booster may transfer antibodies to the unborn baby that will help to protect him/her from the disease during those first few months of life. Children who are vaccinated may still get Pertussis, but the disease will generally be milder. Protection does decrease over time so ask your healthcare provider if it may be time for a booster.

In Maine, Pertussis has been reported in all counties and outbreaks have occurred, especially among school aged children.

Pertussis can be prevented by vaccinating all children on time, avoiding close contact with others who are sick or coughing, frequent handwashing, staying at home if you are not feeling well, covering your mouth with a tissue or coughing into your sleeve, taking antibiotics as directed by your health care provider, and by finishing all medications as ordered.

For more information visit,, or


November Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is usually written by Karen Dolley, our area Public Health Nurse… but Karen is very busy with Flu Clinics so I offered to substitute a safety tip I recently published on the Maine State Grange website. (I gave myself permission!) Karen promises she’ll be back next month!

Excerpted from an email I received recently…

We all carry our mobile phones with names & numbers stored in its memory but nobody, other than ourselves, knows which of these numbers belong to our closest family or friends. If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn’t know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency?

The ”ICE” (In Case of Emergency) Campaign is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As cell (mobile) phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name “ICE.”  For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 etc.

Webmaster note:

Being a naturally curious person and former volunteer firefighter, I had to research this a little. The idea has been around since 2005 and appears to have originated in the U.K. There have been a number of “myths” regarding how this works (or doesn’t) but the fundamental idea has merit. To check on any emails you might get of this nature, the best source is It’s always a good idea to check things there before you forward emails with tips and warnings.

One of the best sources I found for information regarding this is the Los Angeles Fire Department! An important point made on their site is that you should not rely solely on this… adding ICE to your cell phone should be part of a

National Handwashing Week!

Here’s Nurse Karen’s monthly column! Very timely… wash your hands this week!

What is the “single most important method for preventing infectious disease” according to the Centers for Disease Control? Infectious diseases include the common cold, the flu, and foodborne illnesses like E-coli. The answer is surprisingly simple…..handwashing! National Handwashing Awareness Week this year is December 6th-December 12th.

CDC recommendations include washing hands with soap and warm running water for 20 seconds. Wash all hand surfaces thoroughly including wrists, palms, the back of the hands, fingers, and under fingernails. Rinse well in warm water and pat skin dry with a clean or disposable towel. If clean water is not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Try singing the chorus to your favorite song while washing your hands. That should take at least 20 seconds!

Handwashing should be done before (more…)

Fleeing From The Flu

  “Nurse Karen” has agreed to be a regular contributor of information regarding health concerns. This is a timely one… while I was at the school today, the kids were working up their courage for their shots!

There is still a lot of media coverage regarding H1N1 flu on TV, radio and in the newspapers. It is important to me, as a Public Health Nurse, to provide the most current information. The high priority groups for receiving the H1N1 vaccine are pregnant women, children and young adults 6 months through 25 years of age, caregivers and household contacts of infants under 6 months of age because this population is too young to receive a flu immunization, persons 25 through 65 years of age with underlying health conditions, especially respiratory conditions, health care workers, and then all others who want a vaccine.

H1N1 is widespread in Maine. Most available vaccines are going to pregnant women and school children. Vaccinating children, who are major transmitters of the flu, does provide some protection to the entire community. Since April, 2009, 134 children have died in the United States after becoming ill with H1N1.

Remember to avoid close contact with people who are sick, wash/sanitize hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, stay home if you are ill, and get the seasonal and H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

For the most up to date information go to or You can also e-mail flu questions to

On a personal note, I assisted at the large flu clinic at the Bangor Auditorium on October 28th. I arrived at 8:30AM. The line of school children and (more…)