MANKATO — A Blue Earth County health official is warning residents to be mindful of a so-called “epidemic” in pertussis cases, but it’s not yet something to freak out about.
There are more cases, for sure, both statewide and locally.
Last year across the state there were 661 cases of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough. So far this year there are more than 2,000.
In Blue Earth County there have been 10 cases. Last year, there were just four. Nicollet County has reportedly had no cases.
Phil Claussen, Blue Earth County’s director of human services, said he’s advising caution, not alarm.
“Epidemic just means it’s more than we expected,” he said. “But it’s a significant increase for our county.”
The whooping cough case increase is what is known as a cluster outbreak, Claussen said, and as such it gets spread through families. It is spread through the air, so the chief culprits are coughing and non-hand washing.
Primarily at risk for serious pertussis cases are infants and the elderly. Claussen hopes to get word to those groups soon.
“We take it very seriously,” he said. “We don’t want to use fear as a motivation, but public education is our core mission. When we see something like this, we want to get ahead of it.”
Over the years the numbers of cases statewide have fluctuated. Last year’s 661 was preceded by 2010’s 1,143, which was preceded by 2009’s 1,134.
Locally, last year’s four were preceded by 2010’s nine, which was preceded by 2009’s four.
To protect against pertussis, it is recommended kids go through a five-shot series (four before school and one during school). For adults, a booster is available.
“One of our concerns is that infants are much more at risk for a serious concern if they get exposed,” Claussen said. “Adults can usually fight this off with antibiotics.”
Claussen’s advice to people who may potentially come in contact with friends or family where pertussis has been an issue: “Simply stay away. Especially if you have infants.”