"It's very contagious:" Milwaukee high school reports 12 cases of whooping cough, but numbers down this year

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A dozen cases of whooping cough have been reported at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee -- and it's a reminder for parents and doctors that the time of year for infectious disease is upon us.

When it's cold and snowing outside, we are inside -- and the close quarters makes it easier for germs and infections to spread.

"It is very contagious," Dr. Kathy Leonhardt with Aurora Health Care said of whooping cough.

Whooping cough — known medically as pertussis — is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection.

"It's a respiratory disease, so it's spread by coughing and sneezing and it can be spread quite easily -- especially to close contacts," Dr. Leonhardt said.

Although it initially resembles an ordinary cold, whooping cough may eventually turn more serious, particularly in infants.

"It feels like a cold, a standard cold, with a running nose, but after a couple weeks it's that severe violent coughing and the whooping that comes with it," Dr. Leonhardt said.

As with all infectious diseases, Dr. Leonhardt says the sooner it is identified and treated, the better. Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics.

"We always inform people stay home,  good hand hygiene," Dr. Leonhardt said.


The CDC says the best way to prevent whooping cough is through vaccinations. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP. The whooping cough booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. Both DTaP and Tdap protect against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.

"They're looking at how long the vaccine is effective for. The booster vaccine makes sure we have the antibodies to protect ourselves against the infection," Dr. Leonhardt said.

Dr. Leonhardt advises double checking your vaccine history with your doctor to determine whether you need the booster vaccine. Dr. Leonhardt says women who are pregnant are encouraged to get the whooping cough vaccine again -- regardless of their age.

Marquette University High School officials have confirmed the school has seen 12 cases so far this year -- but all of the students diagnosed are now back in class.

The Milwaukee Health Department says overall, the number of cases of whooping cough in the city is down this year. There were 95 cases at this point last year, and currently, we're at 53 cases for 2014.

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