UNHS Public Health cautions about signs of pertussis

Shawn Begay, Public Health Director for Utah Navajo Health System, Inc. reported last week that some possible cases of pertussis have been presented to the UNHS Monument Valley Community Health Center in the last week or so.

Begay said all those presenting at the Monument Valley Clinic were from Kayenta, Arizona and it is too early to be certain if the results of testing are positive for pertussis. However, he said it would be wise for residents of Utah and the Utah portion of the Navajo Reservation to be aware of the symptoms of pertussis.

Early signs/symptoms of the disease resemble the common cold (as so many things do!). These include runny nose, mild cough, and low-grade fever (less than 102). The tricky thing to watch for in small children and babies is apnea, or a pause in regular breathing for no apparent reason.

Later signs/symptoms can come 1-2 weeks later and include coughing fits that leave a person exhausted, gasping for breath, or vomiting. A person can feel normally healthy between coughing fits. These coughing fits become worse and worse, often causing disruption in sleeping patterns or eating. The coughing fits can last for 10 weeks or more. In China, pertussis is known as the “100-day Cough.”

In children and babies the disease can be deadly because they quickly become overwhelmed by trying to breathe without getting enough oxygen. The coughing fits can become so bad that it causes blood vessels to burst in the eyes and face.


Early detection and treatment with antibiotics is best.

The best form of prevention for this extremely contagious disease is vaccination. The vaccine is known as DTaP (for young children) or TDaP (for teens and adults). Begay stressed last week there is no need to panic at this point because no cases from Utah have been found. However, taking precautions, such as making sure infants and young children have their vaccinations is the best precaution. The Centers for Disease Control recommend ‘Immunize by two. It’s up to you.’

For the Vaccine Information Sheet (VIS) on these vaccines, please see…


Originally posted in Medically Speaking: News from Blue Mountain Hospital and UNHS, Volume Six, Number Eleven. Published May 16, 2019