La Crosse County Health Department Sees Rise In Whooping Cough Cases

Health Workers Urge Sick People To Avoid Family Gatherings

Pertussis Bacteria
Sanofi Pasteur (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The La Crosse County Health Department is dealing with a pertussis outbreak, a bacterial infection is also known as whooping cough. County health workers are urging ill people to avoid big family gatherings, and keep a distance from infants and children.

The health department confirmed 31 cases of pertussis in La Crosse County over the past three weeks. It’s treated with antibiotics, but the coughing spasms can linger for months.

The county health department’s Public Health Nursing Manager Christine Gillespie said most of the cases have occurred among teenagers, but infants and adults have also been diagnosed.

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“We’re holding our breath right now. We’ve had no more positive cases come in in the last two days,” Gillespie said. “We’re hoping that’s good news. But, it also may mean we’re going to be busy over the holiday with contact investigations.”

The pertussis vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunization schedule, and a booster is given once to adolescents and adults. Gillespie wants people to check their immunization records to ensure they get a booster vaccine in adulthood to help improve immunity. She also recommends that sick people avoid big holiday get-togethers.

“You’ll be sharing more than food over the holidays if people that are ill are not properly covering their cough. Honestly, if people are really ill, they should stay home,” Gillespie said.

To help prevent the spread of pertussis and other illnesses, people should cough into their elbow and wash their hands a lot, Gillespie said.

Wisconsin led the nation in the number of pertussis cases in 2012. That year, La Crosse County had 166 confirmed cases.

Gillespie suggested people should see their primary care provider for a cough that lasts longer than 10 days.