of whooping cough found in Hill County
Havre Daily News
Four new cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have been diagnosed in Hill County, health officials said Monday. The cases are the first in two months and bring the count to 25 cases in Hill County this year.
Three toddlers - two 2-year-olds and a 4-year-old - and one 33-year-old adult have been diagnosed with the persistent coughing disease. No one has been hospitalized with the disease, a public health official said Monday.
All four cases were diagnosed at the Rocky Boy health clinic, Hill County public health nurse Bridget Kallenberger. Three of the four live off the reservation in Hill County. The Hill County Health Department and the Rocky Boy public health department are both investigating the cases to reach people who may have had close contact with the patients.
About five percent of the state's 525 cases this year have occurred in Hill County, Montana Department of Health and Human Services health specialist Jim Murphy said Monday. That puts the rate of cases in Hill County slightly above the statewide average in a year that is setting a record for total number of cases.
"There's been some clustering there, but certainly nothing we'd call dramatic," Murphy said. "This has been spread out over several months."
Murphy said pertussis is a disease that peaks in numbers every three to five years. "This looks similar to what's going on in several other states," he said.
North Dakota reported more than 700 cases last year and has seen a slower rate of infection this year, Murphy said.
Pertussis is particularly dangerous to infants younger than 12 months, Murphy said. A majority of infants diagnosed with whooping cough are hospitalized. The disease took the life of one Gallatin County infant this year and one in Roosevelt County last year, Murphy said.
Though the increase in number of cases is alarming, it can be attributed to a more sensitive test, Murphy said.
"You get a more sensitive test, you find more cases. You find more cases, you do more investigations and you find more cases," Murphy said.
A vaccine is available for toddlers and a booster has just become available for teenagers, Murphy said. All toddlers should be immunized against pertussis, though Murphy said there are not yet any federal recommendations regarding the booster for teens.
A majority of this year's cases have been among teenagers, Murphy said.
"If we can prevent those folks from getting it ... (we) can make a dramatic impact," Murphy said.
As the weather cools and people spend more time indoors in close quarters, respiratory diseases of all kinds become more prevalent.
"Not everyone with a cough has pertussis," Murphy said.
People should be on the lookout for an unusual cough, one that produces an unusual sound or is violent enough to cause gagging or vomiting. People should see a doctor about any cough that lasts longer than a week and seems to worsen, Murphy said.
To avoid getting the disease, people should avoid others who are coughing and wash their hands frequently, Murphy said.