Whooping Cough on the Rise in Dane County

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 6:05am

Outbreak is Affecting Young People Hardest

Over the past several months, whooping cough (pertussis) has been on the rise in Dane County. Since March 1st, more than 90 cases have been reported in Dane County and more cases are expected. Most of the reported cases are school aged children - and within this group the hardest hit is 10-14 year olds; the second hardest hit are 15-19 year olds, and the third are 5-9 year olds. More than 160 total cases have been reported since the beginning of the year. While cases of pertussis have been found in quite a few areas of the county, clusters of cases have been reported in Sun Prairie, Monona, and Cottage Grove. Other counties in Wisconsin have also seen an increase in pertussis.

According to Amanda Kita-Yarbro, Communicable Disease Epidemiologist for Public Health - Madison and Dane County (PHMDC), "These numbers are particularly alarming in light of the fact that they are much higher than the 2 to 3 cases per month that we have seen over the past several years."

In the beginning of the illness, pertussis looks like a common cold, but severe coughing soon follows. Even with treatment, extreme coughing fits may last several weeks. People with pertussis need to stay home until they can no longer spread the disease. Getting immunized is the most effective way to help prevent the disease. Even in cases where the vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing disease, the vaccine does reduce the severity of symptoms and disease complications.

Infants do not receive the full benefit of the vaccine until they've had 3 pertussis vaccine doses and are at least 6 to 12 months of age. Therefore, it is particularly important that their family and caregivers be immunized to protect these vulnerable babies. Pregnant women, fathers, grandparents, siblings, and babysitters should all have a recent DTaP or Tdap vaccine.

It is significant that this information is coming out in the middle of National Infant Immunization Week, a time to remind us that vaccination against all vaccine preventable diseases is a vital component of a healthy community.

For more detailed information on pertussis including details about vaccination requirements for children, teens and adults:


For information on where to get free immunizations if you are uninsured:

To view a video that explains cocooning (how vaccinated adults can help protect unvaccinated infants: http://www.preventpertussis.org/consumer/video.html


Public Health - Madison & Dane County


  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302