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Fourteen cases of whooping cough in Beltrami County

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Fourteen cases of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, have been diagnosed in Beltrami County, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

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The cases have been confirmed since mid-December, most of them in school-aged children.

According to a press release from the Department of Health:

It is not unusual to see pertussis cases in late fall and winter.

In Minnesota, there was an increase in cases in 2008. Pertussis occurs in cycles of 3-5 years. The last peak year was in 2005 when 1,571 cases were reported in Minnesota. Preliminary numbers for 2008 include around 600 cases of reported pertussis, with cases continuing to be reported in 2009.

Pertussis is caused by bacteria, which can be spread from person to person through droplets produced during coughing or sneezing. These droplets do not travel very far through the air and usually only infect persons nearby.

Generally pertussis starts out with symptoms similar to a cold, such as sneezing, cough, low-grade temperature and runny nose. The cough tends to be worse at night and over time can become severe and last weeks or months.

The cough becomes severe when:

- Sudden, uncontrollable bursts can occur with one cough following the next without a break to catch a breath.

- Children sometimes make a high-pitched whooping sound when breathing in after a coughing episode.

- Persons might cough so hard they vomit.

Anyone can get pertussis, although infants and young children who have been immunized properly should generally be protected against the infection. The vaccine is not 100 percent effective and gradually wears off. A pertussis booster is given again with tetanus immunizations.

A health advisory was issued by the MDH to inform public health and the medical community about the increase in the diagnosed cases of pertussis. Pertussis infections need to be reported to the MDH.

The risk to infants and elderly is the greatest. However, even among adolescents and adults a pertussis infection can lead to pneumonia or even rib fractures from coughing.

The best way to prevent pertussis is for all children to be vaccinated on time and for adolescents and adults to receive a booster shot as needed. Early diagnosis and treatment of pertussis can help stop the spread to others.

Health care providers should evaluate anyone with a severe cough or one lasting longer than seven days regardless of severity. Anyone diagnosed with pertussis or persons suspected of having pertussis should not return to work or school until five days of antibiotics have been completed.

As always, good hand washing should be encouraged to avoid the spread of germs. People should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.

People should seek medical attention if they develop pertussis-like symptoms.

More details can be found on the MDH Web site at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/pertussis/pertparents.html.

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