Wisconsin First Lady, State Health Officials Caution Public on Risk of Pertussis


MADISON -- First Lady Jessica Doyle joined state health officials in warning parents and teachers about the increasing incidence of pertussis, or "whooping cough," in Wisconsin.


"During this time of year when children are returning to school, they easily spread highly-contagious diseases like pertussis," the Doyle said. "Adding to the problem is that kids don't want to miss their classes or after-school activities, and may go to school even when they are not feeling well."


State and local public health officials have contacted school administrators and staff to alert them to signs and symptoms of pertussis. Children who exhibit signs of pertussis need to be evaluated by their doctors and should not be in school until it has been determined that they are not infectious, according to Dr. Jeff Davis, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases at the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.


Although the nationwide incidence of pertussis is higher than last year, Wisconsin's rate is particularly high, reflecting Wisconsin's vigilance in identifying cases of pertussis.


In addition, Wisconsin has sophisticated diagnostic tools at the State Laboratory of Hygiene and in other laboratories. "Because early identification of the pertussis bacteria is critical for prompt treatment, this test helps medical providers distinguish the cough of a common cold from the potentially dangerous pertussis," Davis said.


Pertussis may infect anyone; however children less than one year of age whom have not been vaccinated are at greater risk of complications and hospitalization.


The pertussis vaccine currently used is about 60 percent to 90 percent effective in preventing the illness, but is only recommended for children under seven years of age.


Because pertussis is spread by close contact, transmission in households is very common. Family members can infect infants and younger children. When pertussis is confirmed in a household, all family members and close family contacts such as sitters and daycare providers should be treated with antibiotics to prevent further spread.


Source: Wisconsin Department of Health

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