Montana county fights worst ever pertussis outbreak

Health officials in Missoula County, Montana, recently called an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, the worst in the area's history.

Missoula County has reported seven confirmed cases of pertussis with the Missoula City-County Health Department. The cases range in age from infants to adults and include both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, according to

Last week, Missoula County Public Schools confirmed a case at Sentinel High School, but health officials said there has been only one case in a Missoula County school.

Local health department personnel have been attempting to ascertain who has come into close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with illness and are trying to make sure all of the cases are being treated properly.

"Make sure that you are current on your pertussis vaccination," Missoula City-County Health Department Lead Infectious Disease Nurse Cindy Hotchkiss said, reports. "If you haven't received a pertussis containing tetanus vaccine since childhood, it would be a good time to get a booster and to make sure that your children's vaccinations are also current."

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable, and often violent, coughing spasms that can make it difficult for the infected to breathe. It can cause permanent disability in infants.

The infection is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and tiny droplets containing the bacteria spread. It generally lasts six weeks, with initial symptoms developing approximately a week after exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.