Pertussis cases still on the rise in Flathead

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Recent reports from the Flathead City-County Health Department show a recent spike in cases of pertussis, a highly contagious respiratory disease commonly known as whooping cough.

Numbers show 92 cases were reported in 2018, and of those, 49 were reported in December and 22 in November. According to the report, 83 percent of the total reported cases involved patients ages 18 and younger. The oldest patient was 80.

And the disease doesn’t seem to be slowing down; 16 new cases have already been reported in the first half of January. Nearly 90 percent of the new cases were in patients ages 18 and younger — a figure that aligns with trends from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention showing pertussis is more common among youth.

The Center has yet to compile data from 2018, but in 2017, 18,975 cases of pertussis were reported nationwide, with nearly 15,000 of the cases occurring in patients 18 and under.

The City-County Health Department says pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than one year of age.

According to the department’s announcement, “individuals who have been exposed and are exhibiting symptoms of pertussis should stay home from school or work until they seek medical advice and are tested for pertussis.”

Pertussis usually starts with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and perhaps a mild cough or fever. Then, after one to two weeks, the illness will progress to include severe coughing, which may be followed by an inhale that resembles a “whooping” sound.

For anyone diagnosed with pertussis, the department recommends they not attend daycare, school, work or public gatherings until they have finished an entire course of antibiotics.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com

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