Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Information

Over the past several months, whooping cough (pertussis) has been on the rise in Dane County.  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. Other counties in Wisconsin have also seen an increase in pertussis.

In the beginning of the illness, pertussis looks like a common cold, but severe coughing soon follows. Even with treatment, coughing may last several weeks. People with pertussis need to be treated for 5 days with an antibiotic and remain at home during that period. After the 5-day treatment, they are no longer able to spread the disease.  There have been a few confirmed and suspected cases of whooping cough in our school district over the past few weeks, all of whom have been treated and remained at home for the recommended five days.

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.

If anyone in your family has a persistent cough that is not from other identified causes, please contact your health care provider to have that person assessed and possibly tested and treated for whooping cough.

If you have any questions, you may contact Public Health Madison & Dane County at 266-4821, or our school nurses:
Melisa Kirchstein, DAHS and DAMS, 469-5262
Laurie Krause, Elementary Schools, 444-2632

For more information on pertussis, please refer to the attached Fact Sheet, or visit:

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