Seventy-six whopping cough cases in Weld County are related to schools
December 9, 2013
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is so widespread in Weld County that a health official said Friday that there is probably at least one case in every school in the county.
Eric Aakko, public information officer for the county health department, said of the 96 people in Weld County diagnosed with pertussis, 20 are unrelated to schools. Aakko said four people have been hospitalized and no one has died from whooping cough. The people diagnosed range in ages from 2 months to 71 years.
Aakko said the whooping cough epidemic is not only in Colorado, but throughout the country.
The county health department put out a fact sheet saying that from 2007-2011, Colorado averaged 158 cases of whooping cough annually. Those numbers were at 1,118 in 2013 as of Nov. 2. Aakko said the state is usually a month behind in reporting its data.
Aakko said there are many people who have whooping cough but have not been diagnosed with it and that includes students in schools throughout Weld County. Aakko said symptoms can be mild in some people if they had a vaccine years ago. He said a cough lasting two to three weeks should be checked out.
"You're sick, you could be contagious — but you don't even know it," he said. "That's why the vaccine is the only sure way to get protection. If you're a caregiver, a parent or a grandparent and you're taking care of very young children, you really need to make sure you go get the booster. Definitely, if you're a teacher, too, get the booster."
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Aakko said the vaccine is readily available through the health department clinic or from a personal physician. He said the Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) will do the trick.
"Pertussis, right now, is widespread. I can't say affirmatively that it's in every single school, but there's probably a likelihood that it is in every single school (in Weld County)," Aakko said. "The state's calling this an epidemic right now. For every diagnosed case, there's 10 undiagnosed cases. We only hear about the school when the school contacts us to send a letter out to the parents. If somebody has been diagnosed with pertussis and they get on antibiotics, they aren't contagious after five days of being on antibiotics."
The health department will not name the specific schools where students were diagnosed with whooping cough cases, but there are seven schools in the county where cases have been confirmed, Aakko said.
"We don't want to create a false sense of security by naming the seven schools, and then parents who have a kid who is not at one of those schools say, 'Well, I don't have to worry about it.' It really is so widespread, we can pretty much assume that it's in just about every school. Those are seven schools with more than one case, and they are geographically dispersed all over the county. We have two schools that have five cases, and those are at opposite ends of the county, too."