Additional whooping cough case confirmed on Big Island

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Another case of whooping cough, or pertussis, has been confirmed in a third distinct region on the Big Island.

The total number of confirmed cases on the island is now 11.

A screenshot of an illustration of the bacteria that causes whooping cough, or pertussis. (Illustration by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention medical illustrator Dan Higgins)

The Hawai‘i Department of Health reports the new case is unrelated to the 10 previously reported cases since March. Several of the cases have been in infants too young to be fully vaccinated.

The cases indicate whooping cough is spreading in the Big Island community. The state Health Department strongly recommends people stay up to date with pertussis vaccinations, which is especially important for infants, young children, those with underlying medical conditions and their close contacts.

“We want to protect these vulnerable groups who are more likely to develop severe whooping cough,” the department said in a press release.

The best way to protect you and your loved ones is to make sure your vaccinations are updated.


You can usually get a Pertussis vaccination from a primary care provider such as a pediatrician, family physician, internal medicine physician or nurse practitioner. Calling ahead to confirm availability is recommended.

Those without a primary care provider can contact their health plan or a federally qualified health center if they do not have health insurance.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by bacteria.

It can cause severe coughing fits for up to 10 weeks or more followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound when breathing in. Vomiting and exhaustion can also follow.

See a doctor as soon as possible if you or your child is experiencing symptoms, such as runny nose, fever and coughing violently and rapidly.


Whooping cough can lead to serious complications, especially in infants, including pneumonia, dehydration, seizures and brain damage. Some infants might not cough at all. Instead, they could struggle to breathe or have apnea, or life-threatening pauses in breathing.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or your child is struggling to breathe and turning blue or purple.

Two pertussis vaccines are used in the United States — DTaP and Tdap. It is recommended infants and children complete a series of DTaP doses, while adolescents should receive one dose of Tdap, preferably at age 11 or 12 years.

Pregnant women should get a Tdap dose during the third trimester to help protect their babies early in life. Those regularly around young infants such as family and household members should especially ensure they are up to date with recommended pertussis vaccines.

Based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hawai‘i’s 2022-23 kindergarten coverage rate for DTaP was 87% compared to a national average of 92.7%. With coverage rate declining, there is increased risk for continued disease spread in the community.


Parents who are hesitant about vaccination are encouraged to discuss their concerns with their child’s health care provider.

If you are diagnosed with pertussis, take antibiotics as prescribed and avoid contact with others until you are no longer contagious.

People can spread the bacteria from the start of the first symptoms and for up to 3 weeks after coughing fits begin.

The CDC recommends practicing good hygiene to prevent the spread of the bacteria that causes pertussis and other respiratory illnesses:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Throw away used tissues in a rubbish basket right away.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow if you don’t have a tissue. Never cough into your hands as germs can be spread this way.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

For more information about whooping cough, visit the CDC website.

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