Don't Start the New Year with Whooping Cough

Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 8:06am

Pertussis is Heading Our Way and We Need to be Prepared

Public Health - Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) issued an advisory on December 27th to health care providers in Dane County regarding measures to minimize the spread of pertussis (whooping cough). In the advisory, PHMDC urges clinicians to consider testing any patient with pertussis symptoms and begin treatment immediately. Of particular importance is the recommendation that anyone with these symptoms should isolate themselves until they've completed five days of treatment. The advisory can be found at

There were 7 cases of pertussis reported in the county in November, and 12 new cases reported since the beginning of December. All of these newly reported cases are age 14 and under. Higher numbers are being reported in nearby communities. These numbers are only a little higher than what is expected at this time of year; it is of concern since pertussis is very contagious and can be life-threatening to infants.

The best strategy to combat this disease is prevention, which means getting vaccinated. Since infants under 6 weeks of age cannot be vaccinated, their best protection comes from making sure that all those in contact with the baby have been vaccinated. Infants are not fully protected until they have received 3 vaccine doses and are 6-12 months of age.

The early symptoms of whooping cough are like those of the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1-2 weeks rapid violent coughing begins which empties the lungs, forcing the child to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound. Check this link to hear the sound of this cough:
While these recordings may be disturbing, they are nowhere near as disturbing as hearing them live.

In light of these current conditions, Public Health recommends that parents and health care professionals make a sustained effort to make sure that children are immunized. The needed vaccine (DTaP) should be given in at
• 2 months of age,
• 4 months,
• 6 months,
• 15 to 18 months,
• 4 - 6 years of age

Teens and adults should receive one Tdap vaccine booster to protect themselves from whooping cough and to protect those around them. Tdap is especially important for people who are in contact with babies - day care providers, grandparents, parents, babysitters and health care providers. Pregnant women should get Tdap vaccine in the second half of pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborns.

In Dane County, only 79 percent of all children turning 2 years old in 2010 had completed all four of their DTaP shots. This is not adequate to provide good community immunity. You can help prevent this disease by making sure that you and your family members are immunized. If you or your child to do show symptoms of this disease, the best thing you can do is to contact your primary health care provider and stay home staying away from other people. Pertussis is not a very nice thing to share during and after the holidays, and certainly not something you want to bring back to school or work.

For more detailed information on pertussis and where to get free immunizations, see the following links:


Public Health Madison & Dane County


  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302