DOH: Recent cases of whooping cough indicate community spread on Hawaii Island

The state Department of Health has confirmed one additional case of whooping cough (pertussis) in a third distinct region of Hawaii Island which is unrelated to previous cases.

This new case closely follows 10 recently reported cases and brings the total to 11 pertussis cases on the island in March and April. The DOH did not specify where the latest case occurred.


Several of the recent cases have occurred in infants too young to be fully vaccinated.

These recent cases indicate community spread of pertussis on Hawaii Island.

DOH strongly recommends staying up to date with pertussis vaccinations. This is very 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 DOH said Wednesday in a statement.

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

Those who do not have a primary care provider can contact their health plan or can contact 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 (up to 10 weeks or more), followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound when breathing in. Vomiting and exhaustion may also follow.

Pertussis can lead to serious complications, especially in infants, such as pneumonia, dehydration, seizures, and brain damage. Some infants may not cough at all. Instead, they may have apnea (life-threatening pauses in breathing) or struggle to breathe.

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.

Call 911 immediately if you or your child is struggling to breathe or is turning blue or purple.