Montana Health News

Nov 15, 2012 12:36 PM by Dax VanFossen - KAJ News

Flathead officials examining whooping cough cases

KALISPELL - Cases of pertussis are still on a rise across the Flathead Valley, with new whooping cough cases being identified in Bigfork and Kalispell school districts.

Reporter Dax VanFossen spoke with the Flathead City-County Health Department and the Kalispell School District to find out why this disease is making a comeback.

A recently reported case of pertussis at Glacier High School brought the number to 31 in Flathead County, and begs the question: Why, after such a long period of time are we hearing about pertussis, making such a big comeback in Montana?

Jodi White at the Flathead County Health Department says pertussis never left, but there are several reasons why the numbers are so high.

"There's always an underlying level of pertussis disease, but we're seeing a resurgence right now, the increase can be due to a number of factors, including vaccinations rates," White stated.

Kalispell Schools Superintendent Darlene Schottle says there is physical proof that fewer people are getting vaccinated.

"We see more exemptions from students having their vaccinations than what we saw quite a few years ago, so you would draw a conclusion that perhaps there is some correlation from the fact that, more people are choosing not to have vaccinations," Schottle explained.

She added that they've noticed that those unvaccinated students can turn up with pertussis, or become a carrier spreading the virus. But Schottle says experience with the disease last year, has them prepared to deal with this year's cases.

White told us that sometimes parents of school age children contract pertussis, but either don't get it diagnosed, or mistake it for bronchitis. It should be noted that even immunized children can contract the disease if exposed to it for long periods of time.

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