CCHD and GFPS Asking Parents to Help Stop the Spread of Pertussis

With over 500 cases of Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) so far in 2012, Montana communities are working hard to find a way to stop the spread of this illness.  During the summer, Pertussis showed up in the Great Falls area; so far there have been 19 cases in Cascade County, compared to no cases in 2011. As children start returning to school, Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD), Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) and other private and rural schools are working together to reduce the impact of the current pertussis outbreak in our schools and community.

Efforts include educational outreach, vaccination record review and immunization promotion, but they can’t do it alone; they are depending on parents for their help.  CCHD Health Officer, Alicia M. Thompson, states, “We are fortunate to have great parents and guardians who care about the health and well-being of our entire community.  We are confident that once they understand the potential seriousness of this illness people will do everything they can to assist us in our efforts to stop Pertussis from spreading in Cascade County.”

A letter from CCHD and GFPS was sent to parents telling them about the illness and asking them to help in prevention efforts.  If an individual did not receive the letter, or would like a copy, please contact CCHD at 454-6950.  Some of the steps parents and other community members are being asked to take include:

  • Ensure all family members are immunized against Pertussis.  This doesn’t just include children, parents and child care workers, it is also essential for grandparents, relatives and friends who may be in frequent contact with young children!  If individuals are concerned about affording the vaccination, CCHD is able to offer vaccine to those who are in contact with children and are underinsured or uninsured. The only cost would be a minimal $14 administration fee.  If an individual’s co-pay is too high, or they don’t have insurance at all, it is still imperative that they are protected against this illness, and CCHD will not turn anyone away due to inability to pay.
  • Fully vaccinated children and adults can still get Pertussis, however symptoms appear to be much less severe. If someone in a family has prolonged or unusual coughing, they should see their health care provider for evaluation.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes, and teach children to do the same.
  • All family members should practice frequent, thorough hand washing.
  • Stay home when sick, and keep ill children home from school and child care.

It’s important for people to remember that they are not just helping keep their family healthy and safe, they are assisting the community and those who may be more susceptible to this illness.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “in infants younger than 1 year of age who get Pertussis, more than half (57%) must be hospitalized. The younger the infant, the more likely treatment in the hospital will be needed.” 

For more information, please contact a Public Health Nurse at 454-6950.