40 cases of whooping cough in 3 weeks

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More than 40 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Albert Lea in the last three weeks, according to Freeborn County Public Health Department officials.

Sue Yost

With the spread of the infection, Public Health Director Sue Yost encouraged people of all ages, particularly those ages 10 and older, to make sure they are up-to-date with their pertussis vaccines.

“It’s fairly contagious,” Yost said.

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Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.”

According to a news release, the infection may begin with a runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and possibly a low-grade fever. However, after one or two weeks, the cough worsens and begins to occur in sudden, uncontrollable bursts. These coughing attacks can end in vomiting or in a high-pitched whooping noise and often happen at night, with the cough lasting up to three months.

The release states people with whooping cough should not go to school, work or any activities until they have finished five days of antibiotic treatment, unless the person has already been coughing for three or more weeks.

Although the cough can last longer than three weeks, a person is no longer contagious after the third week.

Yost noted a majority of the reported cases have been in children ages 10 to 13, and it is likely the vaccines these children had when they were in kindergarten are waning.

She said the pertussis vaccines are available for children ages 2 months through 6 years.

A pertussis vaccine for adolescents and adults is given with the tetanus-diptheria booster.

Yost said on an average year, there are only about a handful of cases reported during the course of a year.

“We have seen occasional cases, but nothing like this,” she said. “It’s been very rare.”

People ages 10 to 75 can be tested for the infection at the Mayo Clinic Health System’s Express Care within Hy-Vee.

Cases have also been reported in Olmsted County in Minnesota and Cerro Gordo County in Iowa.

Yost encouraged people to be cautious of exposing children under the age of 1 to people who have the infection and noted the infants can be at risk for more severe illness.

The Freeborn County Public Health Department can be reached at 377-5100.