MILWAUKEE -- As of Thursday, April 26th, the Milwaukee Health Department confirmed 31 whooping cough cases at St. Matthias Catholic School in Milwaukee, and one case each at two MPS schools. Health officials say those numbers are expected to grow.
St. Matthias Catholic School Principal Susan Booth says an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough - a highly contagious airborne respiratory disease has caused a steady stream of kids to miss school since April 6th. "We see it across the board, from our primary through our junior high," Booth said.
The Milwaukee Public School District has reported two cases of whooping cough, but are not naming the schools.
Paul Biedrzycki with the Milwaukee Health Department says they've seen 84 cases so far this year, and he says he expects the case counts to rise. There were 59 reported cases in the county last year. "We've seen a remarkable uptick in the number of whooping cough cases in the city of Milwaukee in a short weeks period. At St. Matthias alone, that case has tripled," Biedrzycki said.
Biedrzycki says his real concern is not for the kids who wander the halls at Milwaukee schools, but for their younger siblings, waiting back at home. "Young children, young adults who bring this disease back home to households with their younger siblings put them at great risk," Biedrzycki said.
Over 50 percent of infants with whooping cough will be hospitalized. Health officials are asking families to get immunized and look for signs of whooping cough - something St. Matthias says parents are doing a good job with.
"They are talking with their doctors and if a child is showing any symptoms, they are getting tested and keeping them home until they know for sure," Booth said.
The symptoms of whooping cough include a runny nose, slight fever and a persistent cough that won't go away.
CLICK HERE for more information on pertussis (whooping cough) via the city of Milwaukee Health Department's website.