Whooping Cough Concerns In Sauk County Casts Pall Over Festivities

A public health scare in Reedsburg put the brakes on local Halloween festivities in Sauk County over the weekend.

Concern about a whooping cough — an illness is known for its distinctive cough that can last for weeks — prompted local health officials to take steps to stop the spread. As a result, a Halloween event schedule for Sunday was canceled.

While Reedsburg trick-or-treaters are preparing for their runs on Monday, a real Halloween trick has officials in the Sauk County Health Department worried.

Normally, hundreds of costumed children typically turn out for a Halloween event held at the Sauk County Healthcare Center, but because of worries that whooping cough could spread to the elderly residents, it was canceled. The concern is forcing change at other area nursing facilities as well, officials said.

Cindy Bodendein, public health director for Sauk County, said that they’ve seen a spike in whooping cough cases.

“We’ve had 10 cases over the last three months,” she said.

Typically, a few cases wouldn’t have health officials worried. However, they’re seeing a concentration of cases, Bodendein said.

“That is concerning, that it’s like a pocket in Sauk County,” she said.

Taking the advice of public health officials, the staff at Zimmerman Nursing Home has decided residents won’t get to visit with trick-or-treaters this year.

“We were kind of bummed out about it, yeah, because we look forward to it,” said Marion Zimmerman, administrator at Zimmerman Nursing Home. “We think maybe we might have the children come down and just walk past the window here.”

She aid that they normally have more than 100 children come to the facility in costume.

Zimmerman said she was surprised to hear whooping cough, or also known as pertussis, was spreading, but glad for the warning.

“You know, (we’re) very happy we were warned about it and that we could use the precautions,” she said.

Health officials said despite their concerns, trick-or-treating can continue as normal on Monday.

“We talk about close contact with pertussis and that’s usually 3 feet from an individual, so as far as trick-or-treating, most people generally will be OK,” Bodendein said.

She said that whooping cough begins like a cold, with cough beginning after 10 days and lasting up to a month.

Health officials said that if a person or someone they know are experiencing or should experience those symptoms, they should see a doctor. A person would need antibiotics if they do in fact have whooping cough.

Whooping cough immunizations haven’t taken hold in children under the age of 1, officials said.