Whooping cough outbreak persists in Dane CountyDane County's whooping cough outbreak surged in May, with the county reporting 136 cases during the month for a total of 357 cases this year.
By: By David Wahlberg, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
Dane County's whooping cough outbreak surged in May, with the county reporting 136 cases during the month for a total of 357 cases this year.
That's up from an annual average of 47 cases in the county the past four years. A similar increase is being seen statewide.
Health officials say vaccination in children and adults is the best way to prevent the potentially deadly disease, easily spread among children. But they hope summertime will help.
"With school coming out, we're optimistic that transmission will decrease," said Amanda Kita-Yarbro, communicable disease epidemiologist with Public Health Madison and Dane County.
More than 70 percent of the county's cases this year have been in children ages 5 to 19.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, can begin like a cold, with a low fever and mild cough. The cough can become persistent and explosive, making it hard to breathe, sleep or eat.
Children, especially newborns, are most vulnerable.
Unlike the flu, whooping cough has no distinct seasonal pattern, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease tends to be cyclical, rising dramatically every four to five years.
Dane County's last outbreak was in 2004. The county's current outbreak started in December and escalated in late March, Kita-Yarbro said.
The state Department of Health Services reported 1,829 cases this year through Wednesday, up from 152 cases during the same period last year. At least 38 people were hospitalized, and one person died.
Only Outagamie County has had more cases than Dane County, according to the state.
Other states are also experiencing outbreaks.
Health officials say children and adults -- especially adults in contact with children too young to be immunized fully or at all -- should be sure they are vaccinated.
For young children, the CDC recommends five doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, known as DTap. The doses should be given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years.
A booster vaccine, called Tdap, is recommended for children ages 11 to 12, for pregnant women and for adults.
Many adults get the Tdap shots as their tetanus boosters. But those who haven't received a Tdap shot are encouraged to get one now, even if they aren't due for a tetanus booster.
More than 16,600 people in Dane County got Tdap shots through April this year, up from 11,400 last year, Kita-Yarbro said.
Most of the 357 people who have contracted whooping cough were appropriately immunized, she said. The shots aren't 100 percent effective, but vaccination may have led to milder disease, she said.
Of the 13 cases among children less than 1 year old, five hadn't had any shots.
Dr. Mark Huth, chief of staff at Group Health Cooperative of south-central Wisconsin, said pertussis vaccination is up about 25 percent at his family practice clinic this year.
"Providers are trying to keep it in the forefronts of their minds," he said.
(c)2012 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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