Pertussis outbreak hits Marathon County the hardest - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Pertussis outbreak hits Marathon County the hardest

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Newsline 9 followed up on the whooping cough outbreak across Wisconsin, and found Marathon County has the most pertussis cases in the state.

Health officials said there are 83 reported cases of whooping cough in Marathon County--12 more than a year ago.

"I've been doing cases on pertussis for over ten years now, and I've never seen anything of this magnitude," said Ruth Marx, Marathon County Health Department epidemiologist.

Marx said 48 percent of those cases were found in children between the ages of 10 and 14.

Health department experts said pertussis can infect people of all ages, but it can be most harmful to young children and infants. Health department leaders said they're taking the necessary precautions to keep them safe.

"Our focus, when we do the contact investigation is to notify the schools, and find out who the close contacts are is because we are trying to stop the chain of transmission," said Marx.

An area preschool owner said a few of their children were suspected to have pertussis.
He said their parents got involved, and took them to the doctor.

"We have seen people where the doctor suspected, and they tested and everything came back negative," said Phil Mohs, owner of Little Scholars Preschool in Wausau.

As a precautionary measure, preschool officials said they got in touch with other area schools about how they should address a pertussis outbreak.

"We talked to a lot of people who have experienced, you know, a lot of people in elementary schools and things like that," said Mohs.

Health officials said children are required to be vaccinated for pertussis before they start school. But why are there so many cases popping up now? Health officials said it may be because the vaccine is only 75 to 80 percent effective.

"Immunity from this vaccine wears off over time," said Marx.

Still, experts said its better to get the vaccine than to go without, and they're not difficult to obtain. You can get vaccinated at some drug stores.

"A vaccinated individual generally has milder illness than somebody who had not been vaccinated," said Marx.

And health officials said if anyone gets infected, regardless if the person was vaccinated, they recommend taking antibiotics, and staying home for at least five days.

"The antibiotics make the person non-infectious. They may not alter the coughing," said Marx.

While the coughing may continue for weeks after taking antibiotics. Experts said at that point they're no longer considered capable of spreading the disease.

Newsline 9 got in touch with health departments in 12 counties from our viewing area, and 10 of those health departments reported an increase in pertussis cases as well. 

For Lincoln County, officials reported no cases for 2011, and 13 so far for 2012.

Price and Forest County officials had similar responses. Health officials from Price County said they have six cases to report for 2012, and none for 2011. 
 
Forest County officials said they have 33 cases so far, a huge jump from having no cases last year.

Clark County health officials said they have had five this year, and three last year.

Oneida County officials said they're investigating 77 cases, more than the 17 they looked at in 2011.

Langlade County had 18 cases this year, a small increase from last year, according to health officials there.

Portage County health officials said they had 51 cases so far, and three cases in 2011.

Shawano County health experts said they had five cases to report for 2012. They had three in 2011.

Waupaca County health officials said they've seen 16 pertussis cases in the last three weeks, and that they don't know the total for the year so far. They did say case numbers from 2011 are much less than the numbers from 2012.

Waushara County health authorities said they had six reported cases that turned out negative for 2012, and that they had four cases in 2011. 
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