RiverStone Health has recently received reports of six confirmed cases of pertussis, or “whooping cough,” in Yellowstone County. In order to prevent the spread of pertussis, RiverStone Health officials investigate each case to determine who may have had sufficient contact with an ill individual to require preventative treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a contact includes those who have had:
• Direct face-to-face contact for a period of time, usually one hour, with a person who is experiencing symptoms.
• Shared confined space, such as a vehicle, for a period of time, usually one hour, with a symptomatic person.
• Direct contact with respiratory, oral, or nasal secretions from a symptomatic person (e.g., an explosive cough or sneeze in the face, sharing food or eating utensils, kissing, or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation).
“Pertussis is spread only when there is close contact between individuals for an extended period of time,” said Tamalee St. James, RiverStone Health Community Health Services director. “We investigate each confirmed case and use the guidelines to determine who should be monitored or treated. These are usually family members living with the person who has the illness.”
RiverStone Health officials notify each contact directly, recommend appropriate antibiotic treatment, and instruct those who are experiencing symptoms to be stay home for five days.
Those who think they may have been exposed, but who are not notified by RiverStone Health, are asked to monitor for symptoms and seek treatment only if symptoms occur.
Pertussis generally begins as a mild respiratory infection with symptoms similar to a cold – sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough usually worsens with episodes of rapid coughing followed by a sound, much like a “whoop,” when breathing.