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Whooping Cough Reported at Lake Bluff School

This is Shorewood's 13th case of pertussis this year. North Shore health officials say the bacterial disease is a growing problem across the entire state.

A child at Lake Bluff Elementary School has come down with the whooping cough, marking the 13th case in the Shorewood School District this year.

Whooping cough, more formally known as pertussis, has been a growing problem in Wisconsin over the last two years, said North Shore Health Department Director Jamie Berg. Just this school year, there have been 13 reported cases in Shorewood, 10 in Whitefish Bay and five in Fox Point.

"It's been continuous for the last year," Berg said. "A couple years ago, we might have only had a couple cases in a year, but we've definitely seen an increase over the last year or two."

Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease that is spread through the air by coughing. It begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes much worse over one to two weeks.

Berg said people with symptoms of pertussis should be tested, even if they have already been vaccinated.

"Even if your child has been vaccinated, there's still a chance they could have a case of pertussis," she said. "If your child has a persistent cough, take them to a doctor and ask them for a pertussis test."

Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs followed by a whooping noise. Older children, adults, and very young infants may not develop the whoop.  There is generally no fever. People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching their breath.  The cough is worse at night and cough medicines usually don’t help alleviate the cough.  

The incubation period for pertussis is usually seven to 20 days from the point of exposure. If your child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough, talk with your child’s doctor and request an evaluation for pertussis, explaining the potential exposure. Treating with antibiotics early can help your child get well faster and lower the chance of spreading the disease to others.

A nasal swab is needed to confirm the diagnosis. Once the swab is taken, the health department asks that the child stay home from school until they know they do not have the disease. If the pertussis test comes back positive, the child is required to stay home for five days from the start of the antibiotic.

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