Pertussis persists

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus


Pertussis cases, commonly known as whooping cough, continue to grow in Houston County much to the disdain of medical professionals.

Deb Rock, Houston County director of public health, reported that the county has seen 13 cases of whooping cough this year, compared to 10 the year prior and zero before that.

Whooping cough is a disease that affects the lungs. Pertussis bacteria are spread from person to person through the air. A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer. Pertussis can be very serious, especially in infants, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Minnesota has seen 400 cases this year and has characterized the situation as an epidemic.

The resurgence of the disease has been linked to a lack of vaccination.

“There’s kind of a trend going,” Rock said. “Younger families are viewing vaccinations differently; that it’s something they don’t want their children to get.”

The department of health recommends that all children be vaccinated for pertussis beginning quite early in life.

Children should receive shots at two, four, six and 15 to 18 months and between four to six years of age.

Children seven through 10 years who are not fully vaccinated against pertussis should receive a single dose of Tdap. Children who have never received any doses, or don’t know if they have, should receive a series of three vaccinations containing tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, and one of these should be Tdap, the department states.

Contracting the disease can be traumatic. Pertussis in infants is often severe, and infants are more likely than older children or adults to develop complications.

Rock said it is very stressful on the parents, as well, not only because of the incessant coughing, but the likeliness of apnea occurring. Apnea is when the child actually stops breathing for a moment.

Other complications include bacterial pneumonia.

Nationwide, 13 people have died this year after contracting the disease. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control reported over 27,000 cases of whooping cough. That is the most number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1959 when 40,000 cases were reported. However, the center also believes many more cases go undiagnosed and unreported each year.

Although infants remain the strongest at risk for complications, half of all reported cases are in teens and adults. Those working with children are also at risk.

The best defense, Rock said, is to get vaccinated. The Houston County Public Health Department offers such vaccinations. They are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 507-725-5810 for more information on services.


Contact Emily Bialkowski at [email protected]