Pertussis (whooping cough) on the rise in southwest Idaho

DHW Communications

The number of people reported with pertussis in southwest Idaho during the first two months of this year has recently spiked. Cases include a newborn hospitalized for the infection, as well as cases from spread in a school, several households, and community settings.

"Twenty-five cases have been reported in southwest Idaho this year in comparison with five in the same period last year,” said Southwest District Health Epidemiologist Lekshmi Venugopal. “Even taking into account the rapid population growth in the area, the number of reported cases we are seeing now historically precedes an even larger outbreak."

Public health officials are urging pregnant women and those who come in contact with young children, including their families, to get vaccinated against pertussis (also known as whooping cough).

Pertussis can cause serious illness in people of all ages but is most dangerous for babies. About one in eight infants with pertussis get pneumonia. About one in 100 infected infants will have convulsions. In rare cases, pertussis can be deadly, especially in infants less than 1 year of age. Many infants are infected by older siblings, parents, or other caregivers who might not know they have pertussis because early symptoms are similar to a cold and some symptoms are like allergic bronchitis.

When diagnosed by a health provider, pertussis can be treated with prescribed antibiotics. Treatment works best when started early, before any coughing fits start. Treatment started later is ineffective and a cough may last longer.

Vaccination is the best protection against severe pertussis. Women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, should talk to their doctor about receiving a Tdap vaccination. By getting Tdap during pregnancy—in addition to gaining protection from tetanus and diphtheria—some protection against pertussis can be passed along to the baby to help protect them until the baby is old enough to be vaccinated.

People with young children in their homes or in their care should also consider vaccination to protect themselves and reduce the risk of spread.

Pertussis vaccines (DTaP for infants and children, Tdap for adolescents and adults) are available in many doctors’ offices, local public health district offices, and pharmacies.

Babies should receive their first dose of DTaP during their doctor visit at 2 months of age, with additional doses at the 4, 6, and 15 to 18 month visits. The fifth and final DTaP dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age, just before children enter school. Adolescents’ immune systems should be boosted with a dose of Tdap during their doctor visit at 11 to 12 years of age, at the same time they are getting their vaccines against meningitis and human papilloma virus. Anyone over the age of 12 who hasn’t had a Tdap vaccine, should get one now.

If you live with someone who has pertussis or if you have been exposed to pertussis and are at increased risk of serious disease (have asthma, are less than 1 year of age or more than 65 years of age) or will have contact with someone who is at increased risk of serious disease, talk to your doctor about whether you need preventive antibiotics. This is especially important if you have contact with a baby or a pregnant individual.

For more information about pertussis, visit

DHW: AJ McWhorter 

Central District Health: Maria Ortega 

Southwest District Health: Lekshmi Venugopal 

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