Number of whooping cough cases in Ashland County now up to 10Ashland County now has seen 10 cases of whooping cough in recent weeks.
By: Associated Press report, Duluth News Tribune
ASHLAND — Ashland County now has seen 10 cases of whooping cough in recent weeks.
Cyndi Zach, the public health administrator for the county health and human services department, said the cases include nine students in the Ashland School District and one adult.
She told the Daily Press that four other people are being watched as "suspects" for whooping cough, or pertussis as it is clinically known.
The first reported case involved a student in the Ashland Middle School in December.
Zach said last month that the first six cases all were students in Ashland schools, and all had been vaccinated for the disease.
Evidence shows the effectiveness of the vaccine "tends to wane," Zach said at that time, which is why a booster is recommended for adolescents. Not all of the teens with whooping cough had gotten the booster shot.
Amy Westbrook, Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist for Northeastern Minnesota, said in late December that the region had had only sporadic reports of pertussis since earlier this fall, when seven cases occurred in Cook County between August and October. During the summer, 15 cases were reported in the Virginia area. And in late 2010 and early 2011, 19 cases were reported in the border area between St. Louis and Lake counties.
The median age for the whooping cough in the region is between 10 and 11, Westbrook said. It seems to attack before children have received the recommended dose of Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria vaccine with protection against pertussis).
"It is really important to encourage Tdap vaccinations for those 11 and 12-year-olds," Westbrook said. The Tdap can be given to children as young as 7 if they have not been fully vaccinated previously, she added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends five doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine by the time a child is 6.
Pertussis is a bacterial disease characterized by uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing. St. Louis County public health director Guy Peterson said the distinctive "whooping" in young children with the disease occurs as the child tries to breathe. Serious cases can result in death, particularly in infants and young children.
But in any event, "it's not a pleasant disease at all," Westbrook said last month. "Most people have a six- to eight-week-long cough or even longer. When we see it circulating in the adolescents, that sustains the disease in the community. Those very young babies are still at risk, and they're not fully vaccinated until the full series of vaccines."