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Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Cases Increasing in Cass County

Fargo Cass Public Health is stressing the importance of getting vaccinated for pertussis as cases continue to rise in Cass County.

12/04/2023 1:00 p.m.

Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH) is stressing the importance of getting vaccinated for pertussis as cases continue to rise in Cass County. In the past month, there have been 12 reported cases of pertussis in Cass County. Cass County typically reports eight cases in an average year. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is highly contagious and one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.

Dr. Tracie Newman, Health Officer for FCPH says, “Infants under one year of age are at the highest risk of developing severe breathing problems and life-threatening illness from whooping cough. Babies can get whooping cough from a family member or caregiver who is not aware they have it. Our best form of protection from whooping cough is vaccination for everyone who is eligible. Ensuring infants, children, caregivers, pregnant people, and the elderly are up to date with the pertussis vaccine is more important than ever.”

Pertussis typically begins with cold-like symptoms and sometimes a mild cough or fever before progressing to severe coughing fits which can include uncontrollable, violent coughing and whooping, making it difficult to breathe. Babies with pertussis may not cough, but may gag and gasp instead, as well as have a symptom known as “apnea,” which is a pause in a child’s breathing pattern.

In some cases, antibiotics are recommended for those who came into contact with an active case, including other household members and those with risk factors for severe disease which include infants, pregnant people, and people with weak immune systems. Individuals are recommended to isolate for five days from the start of antibiotics. Adults or children who are having trouble breathing should seek medical attention immediately.

Immunity, whether from the vaccine or from having the disease, wanes over time, leaving previously immune children at risk again by adolescence. Individuals and families providing care to a new baby may need a pertussis booster shot to provide protection for infants who haven’t had the opportunity to receive their full series of vaccinations.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pertussis vaccination for all babies and children, preteens, and pregnant women. Adults who have never received a pertussis vaccination should also get a Tdap shot. The Tdap vaccine can prevent tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis. Parents should contact their healthcare provider or FCPH with questions about vaccines or to make an appointment. FCPH can be reached at 701.241.1383.

Who Should be Vaccinated?

  1. Children:
    Infants need a series of four doses of DTaP given at 2, 4, and 6 months, and between 15-18 months of age. A fifth dose is required between ages 4 and 6 years, before starting kindergarten.
  2. Adolescents:
    In North Dakota, one dose of TdaP must be given on or after the 11th birthday and another dose at age 16.
  3. Pregnant Women:
    Pregnant women should get vaccinated against pertussis once during each pregnancy. This vaccine provides protection to newborn babies, before they are old enough to receive the vaccine themselves.
  4. Adults:
    Adults who have never received one should also get a Tdap shot. Adults should receive a Tdap vaccination every 10 years.

Quick Facts:
• Vaccination of everyone eligible is the best protection against pertussis.
• There are pertussis vaccines for infants, children, adolescents, and adults.
• The childhood vaccine is called DTaP, and the pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. Both vaccines provide protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis diseases.
• Vaccinated people who get whooping cough don’t cough as many days; coughing fits, whooping, and vomiting after coughing fits are less common; apnea and cyanosis are less common (in babies and children).
• People who have had pertussis infection are susceptible to disease after 5-10 years.