CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming health officials are finding an abnormally high number of whooping cough cases in the Cowboy State this year.
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, usually starts with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough and isn’t typically diagnosed until a more violent cough sets in after two weeks. The health department has reported 43 cases of the illness this year.
“Increased pertussis activity is something we watch closely,” said Dr. Wendy Braund, a state health officer. “Campbell County is of specific concern right now. We’ve seen several cases there recently, including some involving pregnant women or individuals linked with pregnancy-related settings.”
The number of whooping cough cases in Wyoming has steadily increased in the past five years. Last year, the state had 76 cases. In 2012, only 59 cases were reported. In 2011, the state reported 13 cases.
Braund said the key to
minimizing Wyoming’s whooping cough caseload is vaccination.
Whooping cough is preventable with proper vaccination. According to health department statistics, half of Wyoming cases in 2014 involved children who did not receive the vaccine or were not fully vaccinated.
“We recommend residents stay up to date with their pertussis vaccines,” Braund said. “Those who still become ill with pertussis even after vaccination are less likely to have a severe infection.”
Whooping cough is especially dangerous for children under the age of 1. In infants, the disease requires hospitalization and can be deadly. Wyoming has not seen a large number of infant deaths from the disease, but the state has been lucky, said Braund.
To prevent the disease in babies, adults who are planning to spend time around infants should ensure that they are fully vaccinated.
“If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about a Tdap vaccine, which can help protect infants,” Braund said.
Whooping cough is not easily diagnosed by health care providers. The disease has become less common over the past several decades with the advent of widespread immunizations.