The Montana pertussis, or whooping cough outbreak is showing no sign of slowing as the number of cases of the bacterial disease have more than doubled since the end of April.
According to a Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) news release Friday, the number of cases have surpassed 200, more than doubling in a little over two weeks. On April 30, Montana health officials reported 93 cases.
Health officials say the number of whooping cough cases is the most seen in the state since 2005 when nearly 600 cases were reported.
DPHHS officials are encouraging the public to get vaccinated and to see their doctor if they show symptoms of the respiratory illness.
DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell said, “We continue to see cases of pertussis and most are preventable. Making sure parents and caregivers are up to date on their vaccines is our best long-term strategy. Anyone caring for children can take advantage of the vaccine to prevent spreading pertussis.”
Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. This vaccine-preventable disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory discharges via the airborne route. Pertussis goes through a series of stages in the infected person; initially a irritating cough followed by repeated, violent coughing. The disease gets its nickname by coughing without inhaling air giving the characteristic high-pitched whoop. Certain populations may not have the typical whoop like infants and adults.
It is highly communicable, especially in very early stages and the beginning of coughing episodes, for approximately the first 2 weeks. Then the communicability gradually decreases and at 3 weeks it is negligible, though the cough my last for months.
This very serious disease can be fatal, though this is not common. Complications to pertussis include hypoxia, seizures and pneumonia. Most deaths occur in infants under 6 months who have not completed primary immunizations.
Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics.
Pertussis is an endemic disease found worldwide. According to the CDC, outbreaks in this country, occur approximately every 3-5 years.
Those that are not immunized are susceptible to this disease. Young infants and school-aged children (who are frequently the source of infection for younger siblings) are at greatest risk.
More on Pertussis Vaccination
Several states have seen increases of pertussis so far this year, in particular, close-to-Montana state, Washington, which has seen 1,300 cases in 2012.