September 2, 2014

Wisconsin leads nation in whooping cough cases

There are nearly 5,700 confirmed (4101) and probable (1567) cases of whooping cough for the year as of December 14th, according to state health officials. Last year, nearly 1,200 cases were reported.

Stephanie Smiley with the Health Department says families with a newborn baby should get immunized to promote ‘cocooning.’ “This is where parents, siblings, grandparents, and anybody else that comes in contact with the newborn are vaccinated to provide additional protection to the newborn who can’t be vaccinated until they’re two months old. Even at that age, infants still lack the adequate protection that they need. So newborns with pertussis can experience severe complications, even death.”

More than half of infected infants require hospitalization from whooping cough — or pertussis — which is a highly contagious respiratory condition, Smiley says, mostly through face-to-face contact. “It kind of begins like a cold … and the illness progresses to include that explosive coughing that can interrupt breathing, eating, and sleeping; and may even be followed by vomiting and exhaustion.”

Parents will recognize the characteristic whooping sound babies make when they have pertussis. Individuals with symptoms should contact their health care provider about any antibiotic treatment that would shorten the time they are contagious. Also, those infected should avoid school, work, and other public activities to avoid contaminating others. Whooping cough can appear as a bad cold in adults, and can be deadly for young children.

The greatest numbers of cases have occurred in Dane, Milwaukee, and Waukesha Counties — the most populous regions. But Forest, Columbia, and Oneida Counties have the greatest percentage of cases.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:52