Whooping Cough Blazes Trail through Northern Michigan

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is now aware of 1305 confirmed and suspected cases of whooping cough (pertussis) this year. This compares to just 308 total cases in 2008.  Three Petoskey students, from one elementary school alone, were diagnosed just last week.

Whooping cough is caused by a bacterial (Bordetella pertussis) infection, and as the name implies, the illness affects the lungs. Early symptoms are often the same as the common cold, so many people do not know that they have a more serious infection. Unfortunately, at this stage, people are most contagious, one reason why whooping cough spreads so quickly when there is an outbreak.

After 1-2 weeks, these “cold-like” symptoms are usually replaced with severe coughing. People with whooping cough are often unable to stop coughing, and can even cough until they vomit. Some people have coughed so violently that they’ve broken ribs.

Whooping cough is not limited to young children, but the illness can be especially dangerous for babies and toddlers. In fact, it can be fatal. Babies are especially vulnerable if they have older siblings who are exposed to the bacteria at school.

Whooping Cough is far less common nowadays thanks to vaccinations. Most children receive a series of vaccinations called DTaP. The vaccinations usually begin when a child is just a few months old and continue until the child is 4-6 years old. Yet in Northwest Michigan, 10-15 percent of children under the age of five are not up to date on their immunizations.

Vaccinations are not just for children. Immunity to pertussis can fade, and the CDC recommends a single booster shot for people ages 11 to 64.

If you suspect that your infant has whooping cough, take him or her to the hospital. To effectively treat whooping cough with antibiotics, it is important to start the course early.

For more information about whooping cough and/or immunization, contact the Health Department of Northwest Michigan at 1-800-432-4121.

Editor’s note: In related news, there have been 17 new cases of whooping cough reported this week around San Diego County.  This year, there have already been 931 total cases of whooping cough reported in the San Diego County area which surpasses this area’s high of 371 dating back to 2005.  Two infants have already died as a result of this disease which has been declared an epidemic in California.

Robin Merrill

Robin Merrill is a freelance writer, performance poet, and editor who splits her time between Michigan and Maine. She writes a lot about Hotels in Marquette Michigan.

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