Watch CBS News

Long Island Officials Warn Of Rapidly Spreading Whooping Cough Virus

SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A cluster of whooping cough is growing on Long Island, with dozens of people infected by the virus.

As CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez reports, a warning was sent out as children begin to head to summer camp – a certain breeding ground for the illness.

Parents in Smithtown are on high alert, as the highly contagious whooping cough is spreading through their community.

"It's one of those diseases you don't think you'll ever hear about again," parent Rick Vollkommer said.

Donna Wilson said she's not taking any chances with her daughter, Kayla.

"She has been coughing a little bit here and there, so I'm contemplating maybe taking her to the doctor tomorrow, just to do a quick test," she said.

At least 40 people in Suffolk County, mostly children, have been diagnosed with Pertussis, the virus more commonly known as whooping cough.

"Of course you get this characteristic whooping cough, where you whoop – which is to say you might have a staccato-like cough, and then in an attempt to catch your breath you do sort of like 'uhhh' to get your breath, and like a 'ach ach ach' – so you cough a lot," pediatrician Dr. Barney Softness said.

Now that kids are entering camp season, and will be surrounded by other children for weeks, the Suffolk County Department of Health has sent letters to camp directors with information to give to parents and staff on how to protect the children and themselves.

"As a parent, you just have to watch the environment," parent Martin McDonnell said. "You look around, you see if anybody doesn't look too well, you get an obvious concern."

Doctors say making sure your child's immunizations are up to date is the best prevention for whooping cough.

"It has the potential to have some serious consequences, and so if it serves to remind people to get vaccinated, then that's the good part that comes out of it," Dr. Softness said.

Camp counselor Kelly Vollkommer said she'll do the basics to stay healthy this summer.

"Just wash my hands a lot, be careful what I touch," she said.

The vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing the virus preemptively, but if you do get whooping cough, the vaccine also helps to alleviate the symptoms.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.