Whooping cough cases spike on Long Island

It seems like everyone is coughing in New York, and if you live on Long Island, you're not wrong.

A spike in whooping cough, or pertussis, cases has led health officials in Suffolk County to issue an alert over what they call a highly contagious respiratory infection.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, division chief for pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital says the cases are widespread throughout Suffolk and the majority of them are impacting school-age children and their parents.

"The recent outbreaks are not at one school district or one location and that tells us there’s more going on," she said.

Doctors say the distinctive cough poses the greatest risk for infants, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised.

Health officials say there is a vaccine for whooping cough and that it is safe and helps reduce symptoms. Adults can get boosted every ten years and there’s a shorter window for children. 

Testing for diagnosis and antibiotics for treatment help cut down on the spread.

"Of course, many children and adults are untreated," Nachman said. "We tell families they’ll cough for at least a month if not longer."

According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, there were at least 108 cases of whooping cough last year in the county, up from 4 in 2022 and 2 in 2021.

"The kids feel whether they have fever or they’re feeling miserable and headaches," Nachman said.

Dr. Nachman says we’re seeing some vaccine hesitancy and vaccination rates have decreased among children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Flu and RSV are also making coughs last longer.

Whooping cough spreads through coughing and sneezing. Doctors suggest washing your hands and staying home if you’re stay.