Hill County has a confirmed case of pertussis, a bacterial infection usually known as whooping cough.
A 10-year-old Havre student has been diagnosed with the disease.
The Hill County Health Department is working closely with Havre Public Schools, as well as the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, to identify close contacts with the ill person to ensure their evaluation and treatment.
Havre Public Schools Superintendent Andy Carlson confirmed that the student in the district was diagnosed with pertussis.
“We’re working very closely with the Hill County Health Department, ” Carlson said, adding that all of the families in the district have or will receive a letter with information about the incident, about the illness and a sheet with answers to frequently asked questions about whooping cough.
“Our big thing is to make sure our students are safe and everybody has complete and accurate information, ” he said.
He commended the district’s staff on their performance and work with the health department.
“I think they have done a great job in just that, getting the information out, ” he said.
The health department is contacting people who have had contact with the afflicted person.
All parents of children who are considered close contacts will be contacted by the Hill County Health Department for communicable disease follow-up and consultation.
Whooping cough is a contagious disease, but can almost always be effectively treated if it is identified early.
The disease is most serious and most likely to develop in very young infants — especially those under the age of 6 months, health department officials said.
Infants should be kept away from anyone who has or has been in close contact with whooping cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be promptly taken to their doctor.
“Pertussis is a serious disease, but one that can be treated effectively, ” said Danielle Golie, public health director with the Hill County Health Department. “Our number one priority is to identify possible cases to contain the spread of the disease and to help parents protect their children. ”
Health officials are working to identify close contacts of those who have been diagnosed with pertussis in order to lessen further spread of this disease. People who are close contacts and have symptoms of whooping cough are not allowed in school or school activities or day care.
Whooping cough is spread through the air by cough, and transmission is dependent on the closeness and length of contact. Mass treatment is not recommended or indicated at this time, health department officials said.
The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination. The pertussis vaccine is available for people over the age of 6 weeks and is included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended routine childhood immunization schedule. It is important to know that no vaccine is 100 percent effective and no community is 100 percent vaccinated.
However, it is known that vaccines are the most effective tool 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.
Additional information related to pertussis can be found on the CDCwebsite: http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/.
The Health Department is following guidance from the CDC and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services for pertussis follow-up.
Whooping cough symptoms include:
• Symptoms begin with cold-like symptoms and a cough.
• The cough becomes much worse over one to two weeks.
• Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (“coughing fit”) followed by a whooping noise.
• Older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop.
• Coughing fits may also be followed by vomiting or turning blue. There is generally no fever.
• The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact their health care provider.