Cases Of Whooping Cough Spike In La Crosse County

43 People Have Been Diagnosed In County This Year


Health officials are on alert in La Crosse County due to a spike this year in cases of pertussis, or whooping cough.

Pertussis is a bacterial disease that is spread through coughs and sneezes. Early on, it can appear to be a cold or allergies, but then the cough gets worse. It can be fatal, mostly in babies.

In La Crosse County, 43 people have been diagnosed with pertussis so far this year — more than twice the number of total cases last year.

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County Public Health Nurse Joann Foellmi said they’re working with school districts and encouraging parents to get their children tested if cold-like symptoms get worse.

“Sometimes I’ll even ask the parent, ‘Has it disturbed your sleep?’ because that will always be one of the first signs, too. They notice that they’re coughing at night. It seems to be worse at night, louder, harsher,” said Foellmi.

Foellmi said they’re not sure why cases have spiked. She said it has spread throughout La Crosse County, affecting infants and adults, but mostly 8- and 9-year-olds.

There is a pertussis vaccination, but Foellmi said most of the recent patients had been immunized.

“And that’s a blessing, because we haven’t seen severe cases of it,” she said.

Foellmi said that patients would have the classic whoop and would struggle to breath: “And the coughing would last a lot longer. Pertussis is known as the 100 day cough. If they weren’t vaccinated, the children would definitely coughing quite a bit longer than they currently are.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (, two counties in northeast Wisconsin are seeing a high number of cases, while other counties have none.