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MADISON -- In light of a significant increase in the number of pertussis cases reported in Wisconsin this year, state health officials are notifying recreation and education facilities such as summer camps, schools and athletic leagues to be alert for children showing signs and symptoms of the disease.
Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is a contagious bacterial disease causing cold-like symptoms in its early stage, with a cough that gets progressively worse.
"Pertussis coughs can become so bad it can be difficult to breathe, sleep or eat. An individual with pertussis may have intermittent coughing spasms for weeks," said Dr. Mark Wegner, chief of the Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section of the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.
Pertussis can infect anyone, although the recent upswing in reported cases in Wisconsin is primarily within the 10- to 15-year-old age group. Infants and young children are routinely given the DTaP vaccine, which is highly effective in preventing pertussis, but the protection from the vaccine decreases over time. While pertussis may not be life threatening to youth in the 10- to 15-year-old age group, teenagers and pre-teens often come in contact with younger children who are at higher risk for developing a serious case of pertussis. Teens coaching an athletic league, attending summer camp or serving as camp counselor may come in close contact with younger children.
In a letter to Wisconsins licensed recreation and education camps, state public health officials included a handout for parents reinforcing the importance of keeping infected children home and isolated during the first five days of antibiotic treatment.
"It is critical that persons diagnosed with pertussis take the full course of antibiotics prescribed by their physician and remain isolated until they have completed five days of treatment to limit potential spread of pertussis," said Wegner. "We realize it may be difficult for a working parent to keep a child home for several days, but not following this guideline can make it extremely difficult to contain a pertussis outbreak."
If you think you or a family member may have pertussis, consult your healthcare professional. Simple laboratory tests conducted early in the illness can determine whether the illness is pertussis. Individuals with a cough of seven days or longer, explosive cough or sleep disturbing cough should consult with their medical provider regarding possible testing.
For more information about pertussis, visit: http://dhfs.wisconsin.gov/dph_bcd/communicable/factsheets/pertussis.htm
Source: Wisconsin Division of Public Health