Whooping cough returns to county

Eight cases reported, first since ’10

Eight people came down with whooping cough in Montezuma County during 2013. This is the first year since 2010 that the disease has been reported in the county.

The end of December marked the end of the second year of epidemic levels of whooping cough in the state, with 1,458 cases reported in the state. Most of the cases have been reported in the Denver metro area.

There have no cases of whooping cough diagnosed at Southwest Memorial Hospital in the last several months, CEO Kent Helwig said.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads when an individual breathes infected aerosolized droplets from a sneeze or cough. It can be deadly for infants and is most commonly seen in children under a year old, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Across the country in 2012, there were 20 deaths from whooping cough, and 15 of those deaths were in children under 3 months old.

However, the hardest hit age group in Colorado during 2013, were young teens between 11 and 14 years old. About 350 cases, or 23 percent of all people diagnosed, fell into this category.

Whooping cough rates peak every three to five years, and the state is in the middle of peak, said Lisa Miller, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

There have been higher numbers of whooping cough cases all across the country, with more than 48,000 cases reported in 2012. The last peak was in 2005, according to CDC data.

“Other states are seeing the same rates that we’re seeing,” Miller said.

The number of whooping cough cases also experiences a yearly cycle that tends to peak in the winter, she said.

Getting a vaccination is the best prevention measure, and they are especially recommended for women during pregnancy. Infants, who are at the most at risk, cannot be vaccinated until they are 2 months old because their immune systems haven’t developed, Miller said.

Whooping cough feels like a cold, that worsens within two weeks into a violent cough and may persist for several months.

Infants do not develop a cough, but rather short pauses in their breathing.

“Such a concerning symptom wouldn’t be missed,” Miller said.

The state is working to prevent whooping cough from spreading further down by educating school nurses and pregnant mothers, among other measures. However preliminary data for January show a high number of cases were persisting into the new year.