Record levels reached for whooping cough
Whooping cough is rapidly spreading across the nation, with states bordering South Dakota experiencing as much as a three-fold increase in infections.
Whooping cough, or pertusis, is named for its symptomatic, wheezing cough. Experts say the disease peaks every three to five years, but, according to the Centers for Disease Control, this year’s infections are the highest on record in more than five decades.
As of July, there have been six cases of whooping cough recorded in South Dakota. That’s half of the 14 cases recorded last year during July, but states surrounding South Dakota are seeing a marked increase leaving experts wary of a possible spread to the state. Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming and Iowa have seen a three-fold increase in reported infections and Nebraska has seen a two-fold increase in whooping cough cases.
“Usually whooping cough spreads in little pockets,” said state epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger. “We’ve been lucky so far, but we’re definitely not immune to the cough spreading to South Dakota.”
Kightlinger said the disease typically spreads in small pockets through areas of dense population like schools, daycares and the workplace. Whooping cough can spread to people of any age, but is most damaging to young adults and children who are too young to receive a vaccination.
“An adult or a big kid can handle it,” said Kightlinger. “But the young kids can’t.”
Fatalities are rare among grown children and adults, but are more common in children and infants. This year, nine children have died and experts are urging adults to have themselves and their children vaccinated to prevent spreading infections.
“Anyone coming in contact with a newborn needs to be vaccinated,” said Kighlinger.