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Wyandotte County sees largest number of whooping cough cases in past 5 years

Cases being investigated are mostly among pre-teens and teenagers
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Pertussis handout
Posted at 10:07 PM, Dec 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-03 23:38:26-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — There has been an increase in the number of reported cases of pertussis, commonly referred to as "whooping cough," to the Unified Government (UG) Public Health Department in Wyandotte County.

"We've noticed kind of an increase in pertussis cases within the last couple months and that increase is a bit unusual," said Elizabeth Groenweghe, chief epidemiologist with the UG Public Health Department in Wyandotte County.

On average, the health department sees 15 to 20 cases of whooping cough annually.

Groenweghe said they're seeing quite a bit more than that with less than two months left in year.

"This is actually the largest number of whooping cough cases that we've seen in Wyandotte County within the last five or so years," she said.

As the health department receives reports of whooping cough cases, they continue to investigate each one.

"The cases that we've been investigating the last few months have mostly been school-age children, mostly that kind pre-teen and teenage group," Groenweghe said.

According to health department officials in Wyandotte County, whooping cough can start with mild cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or a mild cough or a low grade fever. From there, it develops into a severe and prolongs gasping type of cough that typically lasts two to three weeks.

"If you have someone that you're spending time with at home or work or school or day care and they're coughing and you guys are sharing that same room space, that's kind of how whooping cough spreads from person to person," Groenweghe said.

Pertussis handout

Day care centers like Kiddi Kollege in KCK requires proof of vaccination as one layer of protection. Heidi Washington, Kiddi Kollege day care director, said that parents should keep their children home when the children are sick.

"Please call us and let us know like, 'Hey, little Amy has strep throat,' so we can know like - OK, if somebody else gets it, we're able to get a handle on it and we'd clean even more," Washington said.

Washington also makes sure that from the moment students walk through the door, they are told to put their belongings down and wash their hands. From there, it's a mad dash each day to repeatedly wipe down nearly every inch of the day care to help eliminate the spread of whooping cough.

"... Wipe tables 20 times a day, wipe noses, walk around with Lysol, spray the toys, spray everything with Lysol," Washington said.

The UG Public Health Department said the pertussis vaccination is an effective way to prevent the illness.

"When it comes to vaccination, pertussis is going to be a lot more serious for your child than the possible side effects of a vaccine," Groenweghe said.

To learn more about pertussis and ways to prevent its spread, visit this CDC website.

For a look at Safety Net clinics in Wyandotte County, see below.

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