Health Officials See Increase In Whooping Cough Cases

State and local health officials have reported an increase in the number of whooping cough cases in Milwaukee with 12 confirmed cases reported in November — double the normal rate.

According to officials with Public Health — Madison and Dane County, there were seven cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, in Dane County last month. In comparison, there were three in October and five in September, they said.

Amanda Kita-Yarbro, communicable disease epidemiologist for Public Health- Madison and Dane County, in a statement, “While the overall number isn?t too unusual, three of the cases in November were in children younger than one year. It is unusual for Dane County to have three infants reported with pertussis in one month.”

Officials said the illness is very contagious and infants under 6 weeks of age can’t be vaccinated. Babies don’t have full protection until receiving at least three doses of the vaccine, around 6 months of age. The disease can be life-threatening and infants who get infected often require hospitalization, they said.

The early symptoms of whooping cough include common cold symptoms or congestion, sneezing and maybe a mild cough or fever. After one to two weeks, rapid, violent coughing begins, which empties the lungs, forcing the child to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound, according to health officials.

In light of current conditions, Public Health officials continue to recommend that parents and health care professionals make a sustained effort to make sure that children are immunized. The needed vaccine (DTaP) should be given in at 2 to 6 months of age, 15 to 18 months of age and 4 to 6 years of age. Teens and adults should receive one Tdap vaccine booster to protect themselves from whooping cough and to protect those around them.

Officials said the vaccine is especially important for people who are in contact with babies — day-care providers, grandparents, parents, babysitters and health care providers. Pregnant women should get Tdap vaccine in the second half of pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborns, they said.

In Dane County, health officials said, only 79 percent of all children turning 2 years old in 2010 completed all four of their DTaP shots. Increasing this percentage will help stop the spread of this infection, they said.