Fifth case of whooping cough reported in Morrison County

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

The incidence of infection with whooping cough has increased in certain areas of the United States this year. The fifth case was recently reported in Morrison County.

“Pertussis (whooping cough) has up and down years,” said Public Health Director Bonnie Paulsen. “It’s worse this year than normal.”

So far this year 2,711 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Minnesota. While 2011 marked a low of 661 cases, there were 1,143 in 2010, 1,134 in 2009 and 1,034 in 2008.

There are areas of the country which have been hit hard. The state of Washington declared an epidemic in April due to the drastically higher number of cases than average. According to the Seattle Times, in 2012, there have been 10 times the number of cases that were reported in 2011.

Wisconsin is having a widespread outbreak as well, with 3,819 cases reported in 2012.

California had declared a whooping cough epidemic in 2010, when more than 9,000 cases were reported.

“The five Morrison County cases reported include two adults and three children in the 7-13 age range. The most recent case was reported in the last two weeks,” Paulsen said.

The first symptoms of pertussis are similar to a cold: sneezing, a runny nose, possibly a low-grade fever and a cough. After one or two weeks, the cough becomes severe with the following symptoms: the cough occurs in sudden, uncontrollable bursts where one cough follows the next without a break for breath; many children will make a high-pitched whooping sound when breathing in after a coughing episode. Whooping is less common in infants and adults.

According to Sandy Holman, infection control coordinator at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, “The best way to prevent whooping cough is to vaccinate all children on time. Also, everyone should avoid close contact with others who are coughing or otherwise ill; wash their hands often; stay at home if ill; cover their cough with a tissue or cough into their sleeve and seek medical attention if they develop pertussis-like symptoms or have been exposed to someone with pertussis.”

There are two pertussis vaccines (DTaP and Tdap) given in combination with tetanus and diphtheria. “Your age determines which vaccine you should receive,” said Holman.

According to the Seattle Times, Center for Disease Control (CDC) spokeswoman Alison Patti emphasized that pertussis isn’t spreading because of an anti-vaccine movement. Among possible reasons for the recent spike are that diagnoses in teens and adults are getting better and doctors are doing a better job with reporting,” she said.

“The best way to prevent pertussis is for all children to be fully vaccinated on time and for adolescents and adults to get a booster shot,” Holman said.