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Whooping cough cases appear in St. Croix County

As the Wisconsin influenza season begins, St. Croix County DHHS-Public Health is reminding the public that pertussis -- or whooping cough -- is a disease that is also affecting residents.

Public Health officials have confirmed three cases of pertussis reported in St. Croix County. The Health Department is doing an on-going investigation to prevent further spread of this disease.

Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease initially causing cold-like symptoms with a cough that progressively gets worse. The bacterium that causes pertussis can infect anyone who is susceptible, but the resulting illness is most serious in infants and young children in whom extreme coughing fits, lack of breath and the "whoop sound" is common. Pertussis is usually spread by repeated indoor face-to-face contact with an infected person.

Appropriate antibiotic treatment early in the illness can help reduce signs and symptoms and prevent transmission of the bacteria that causes pertussis. Patients with pertussis must be isolated during the first five days of treatment.

The disease is preventable with the DTaP vaccine series that is recommended for all infants and children between the ages of 2 months and 6 years of age. Also, vaccines to prevent pertussis are now licensed for adolescents and adults.

The effectiveness of the vaccine in children who have received three doses of the vaccine is 80 percent; and protection is even greater against severe disease. Persons who experience pertussis after immunization usually have a milder case.

"It is important, especially now during the influenza season, that parents not be confused between the signs and symptoms of pertussis and those of influenza," said Wendy Kramer, interim health officer. "Although both illnesses may start with cold like symptoms including a cough and runny nose, pertussis does not have the high fever, body aches and headaches one gets with influenza,"

Pertussis cough begins as a mild cough and then progresses to explosive coughing that can interrupt breathing, eating, sleeping and even cause vomiting.

Simple lab tests early in the illness can determine whether it is pertussis or influenza or some other respiratory illness.

Call your health care provider or St. Croix County DHHS-Public Health at 715-246-8263 for more information about this vaccine preventable disease.