County see rise in pertussis, especially in upper elementary, junior high-age children


Washington County has seen an increase in pertussis, or whooping cough, cases through Tuesday, with children ages 10 to 14 years particularly affected, according to county Department of Public Health and Environment.

Department officials said 35 whooping cough cases have been reported so far this year, compared to 21 confirmed whooping cough cases in 2011. DPHE officials added that cases are being reported in all age groups.

DPHE officials told the Board of Commissioners Tuesday that pertussis cases are increasing in Minnesota, with outbreaks in a number of communities, especially among upper elementary and middle school students. The department recently sent a health alert to the medical community about the rise in pertussis in the county.

Pertussis cases are diagnosed annually in the county, especially in spring and summer, according to DPHE officials. The increase in the county’s pertussis cases is consistent with what other counties, the state and nation are reporting.

Pertussis affects the lungs and can strike people of all ages. The bacteria can spread from person-to-person and through the air. Initial signs and symptoms of pertussis are similar to the common cold with sneezing, running nose, possible low-grade fever and a cough.

With pertussis, the cough worsens and occurs in sudden uncontrollable outbursts where sufferers cough without a break for a breath. Children will make a high-pitched whooping sound when breathing in after a coughing episode. The most common pertussis complication is bacterial pneumonia.

Pertussis can last four to six weeks or longer and is very serious, especially in infants.

DPHE officials encourage parents to have their children vaccinated according to a recommended vaccination schedule. Adolescents and adults are also encouraged to have a Tdap shot that provides protection against tetanus and pertussis.

In addition to vaccinations, residents should:

n Avoid close contact with persons who are coughing or ill.

n Cover a cough and wash hands often.

n Seek medical attention when a person develops pertussis-like symptoms or has been exposed to someone with pertussis.

n Keep children current on their vaccinations.

n Adults caring for infants and care providers should receive a Tdap booster vaccination.

Visit for information on pertussis. Visit for information on where to get immunizations for uninsured or under-insured children who qualify for the free vaccine program. Call the DPHE at 651-430-6655 to speak to a disease prevention and control team member.