Article by Tim Morrissey
Madison, Wis. – The nation is on track for its worst year in more than five decades for cases of whooping cough, and Wisconsin is among the hardest-hit states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of last month, Wisconsin reported almost 4,200 cases, led by Dane, Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties.
Amanda Kita-Yarbro, the Dane County epidemiologist, says cases of whooping cough – or pertussis – are now beginning to decline. But she warns that people should still take precautions.
“Certainly, if you know you’ve been exposed to someone with pertussis, and then you develop a cough illness, that’s a time when you should call your doctor. It gets a little more difficult now as fall and winter arrive, with other respiratory diseases circulating.”
Last year, Wisconsin had just under 1,200 cases of pertussis, more than half in children ages five to 14. This year, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Montana and Washington are the top five states with significantly higher numbers of whooping cough cases so far.
Kita-Yarbro has some advice for children and adults.
“If you are sick, it’s important to stay home, and there’s a good vaccination against pertussis. It’s not 100 percent effective, but it is effective, and definitely effective in moderating disease. It’s also highly recommended for pregnant women.”
Doctors can give the vaccinations. Cases of whooping cough tend to go in cycles, for reasons public health officials say they don’t fully understand. The last major outbreak in Wisconsin was seven years ago, in the winter of 2004 to 2005