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Whooping cough cases found in Libby

| November 3, 2005 11:00 PM

Four cases of whooping cough — pertussis — has been confirmed in the Libby area, according to county health officials.

Three cases are confirmed and one is "presumptive, according to Sandy Jackson, contagious diseases and emergency preparedness office for the county.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through direct contact. Ten to 30 cases a year are reported in Montana. In Idaho, there are more frequent outbreaks among school-aged children. There have been over 400 cases reported in Montana this year, Jackson said.

The health department is in the process of identifying friends, family and classmates who have come in close contact with the four people diagnosed, Jackson noted. In school, close contact is considered children sitting in the desks next to them and best friends, she said.

"We rely on school teachers and principals to help us," she said.

The disease is a threat to young children who haven't developed a strong immune system or had their DtaP (diphtheria, tetanus, accelluar pertussis) immunization. It can be life-threatening to anybody with a compromised auto-immune system. And pertussis vaccine shots given to adults as children have mostly likely has worn off by now, Jackson said.

"As you grow older the immunity from the vaccine grows weaker," she said.

And adults or children can carry the disease exhibiting only mild symptoms such as runny nose, mild cough and low-grade fever, but pass it along to everyone else they come in close contact with. The symptoms can progress to an out-of-control cough causing vomiting and fainting.

Complications from pertussis may include severe brain damage, convulsions, pneumonia, middle ear infection, loss of appetite, dehydration, periods of time when the victim cannot breath and death.

For more information about pertussis, call Jackson at the county health department, 293-2660.