Whooping cough cases spike in North Dakota, Minnesota
The number of whooping cough cases could be unprecedented this year in Minnesota and North Dakota.
The state projections mirror a national trend, as almost 18,000 cases have been reported so far this year in the U.S.
Director of Clay County Public Health Kathy McKay said county numbers have not yet been broken down, but the cases of pertussis statewide are at an epidemic level.
As of June, 1,758 pertussis cases were reported in Minnesota since the beginning of the year. That is more than double the 662 cases reported in 2011.
"I haven't heard of our community having an outbreak at this time," McKay said. "Historically, the incidents of pertussis increase in late summer and into fall, so we may see some coming up."
Minnesota Department of Health Immunization Director Kris Ehresmann says that by the end of year, whooping cough cases could top 3,400 statewide. That would double the last outbreak in 2005.
In Cass County, the state Department of Health said 14 cases have been reported in 2012 as of Monday. In 2011, 19 cases were reported.
Statewide, 80 pertusiss cases have been reported in North Dakota, and 49 have been confirmed. Of those 80 cases, 14 have been in children younger than 14, and the majority, 20 cases, have been reported in children ages 10 to 17.
Kathy Anderson, director of nursing at Clay County Public Health, said there are a number of factors for the increase. She said modern testing and technology is making the pertussis virus easier to diagnose.
The disease, with cold-like symptoms and a persistent cough, can lead to severe illness.
Anderson said that about one in 20 who have pertussis will get pneumonia.
"Yes, it can be deadly, it's rare, but it can happen. That is primarily in children less than 1 year old," she said. "The babies are what we need to think about protecting."
While babies should be vaccinated at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and between 15 and 18 months, children are not considered fully vaccinated until a fifth vaccination in preschool, or between the ages of 4 and 6.
"So just one or two doses isn't going to do it; they need to be fully vaccinated," Anderson said.
About 70 percent of Minnesota children have received the vaccine, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult coverage is much lower, Anderson said.
Since children and babies can get the disease from adult carriers, health officials are asking adults and pregnant women to be vaccinated.
"Seeking treatment when pertussis symptoms first start is pretty important," McKay said. "It's best if it's in the first few weeks of the start of the symptoms, which are cold like symptoms, the persistent cough."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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