Richland County has one confirmed pertussis case (whooping cough) in an individual under the age of 18 as of Jan. 3. Richland County Health Department is working with health care providers, and other partners to identify close contacts and ensure that they are evaluated and treated as needed. As of Dec. 29, there have been three confirmed cases in Montana.
Pertussis is a contagious respiratory disease that in almost all cases can be effectively treated by a health care professional if identified early. Pertussis is spread through the air by coughing, and transmission is dependent on the closeness and length of contact. The disease is most serious in very young infants – especially those under the age of 6 months. Infants should be kept away from anyone diagnosed with pertussis or identified as a close contact of someone who has been diagnosed. Infants with any coughing illness should be promptly evaluated by their health care provider.
Richland County Public Health Department’s number one priority is to contain the spread of the disease. Health department staff will identify close contacts of those who have been diagnosed with pertussis in order to lessen further spread of this disease. Mass treatment is not recommended or indicated at this time.
Pertussis begins with cold symptoms (runny nose, sneezing) and a cough. The cough continues which becomes much worse over one to two weeks and can last up to six weeks or more. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (coughing fits) followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. Coughing fits may also be followed by vomiting or turning blue. Immunized adults may have an irritating cough that does not go away even after using over the counter cough/cold medication. There is generally no fever. The cough is more often worse at night or with activity and may cause fatigue. Anyone experiencing these symptoms or a cough that has lasted two weeks or longer should contact their health care provider.
The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination. Pertussis vaccine is available for persons over the age of 6 weeks. It is included in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended routine childhood immunizations schedule. It is also very important for adults to receive the vaccination as well. No vaccine is 100% effective and no community is 100% vaccinated. However, we do know that vaccines are the most effective tool we have to reduce transmission of pertussis and that even immunized children who get sick tend to have less severe symptoms than children who are not immunized.
For additional information or to check your vaccination record, please contact the health department at 433-2207, or visit the prevention website at cdc.gov/pertussis. Clinic hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from noon to 4:30 p.m., the second Wednesday until 6 p.m., and the third Thursday from 1-4 p.m.