Quick Takes

Whooping cough cases on the rise in Kentucky

By: - September 8, 2023 10:58 am

(Kentucky Department of Public Health)

FRANKFORT – Kentucky is seeing an uptick in cases of pertussis, more commonly called whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory illness. 

As of Sept. 13, there were 56 cases confirmed to the Kentucky Department of Public Health, a spokeswoman said, though other cases are being investigated.

That total is up from 2022, during which there were 35 cases. There were 65 cases in 2020, though. The last “major peak” of whooping cough in Kentucky was in 2016 and 2017, a spokeswoman said, when there were 463 and 449 cases.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services said in a recent newsletter: “Recent cases have occurred primarily in central Kentucky but cases are being seen throughout the Commonwealth.” 

Whooping cough can be a life threatening illness and is most dangerous for babies, according to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can, however, affect people of any age. 

Whooping cough is highly contagious, according to the CDC. Vaccines are available to children as young as 2 months old and can help prevent it. 

Early symptom onset to recovery can take around 12 weeks, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health. 

Symptoms of whooping cough include, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Uncontrollable coughing
  • Vomiting from coughing 
  • Fever below 100.4 Fahrenheit 
  • Apnea (life-threatening pauses in breathing) and cyanosis (turning blue or purple) in infants and young children

This brief was updated Sept. 14 with new data. 


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.