Whooping Cough Numbers Escalate in Johnson County

By Cindy Hadish, Reporter

Fatima Muhyeddin, a public health microbiologist at the UI Hygienic Lab on the Oakdale campus in Coralville, removes the liquid portion of DNA from bacteria that causes pertussis or more commonly known as whooping cough while testing for the disease of Iowa patients on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2005. The Iowa Department of Public Health estimates that the UI Hygienic Lab does over 95 percent of the pertussis testing in Iowa according to Lucy DesJardin, a program manager at the UI Hygienic Lab.

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By Liz Blood

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Parents of students in Johnson County schools are being notified about a whooping cough outbreak.

Tricia Kitzmann, deputy director of Johnson County Public Health, said 18 cases of the disease – also known as pertussis – have been confirmed in the last two weeks. That compares to three to four cases per month during the summer.

“It’s been here all summer,” Kitzmann said. “Now that the kids are back in school, teachers are sending kids home sick and they’re getting tested.”

Students at all grade levels, from kindergarten to seniors, have been affected, she said, with most cases at the high school level.

Numbers are up in Iowa as a whole this year, with 1,040 cases statewide and 170 cases in Linn County as of Friday, Aug. 31, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The department noted that number is nearly 500 percent higher this year, compared to the average of the past five years at 174 cases.

No deaths have been reported so far this year.

In addition to emails going to parents of students in all of the Johnson County school districts, letters are being sent to family members of verified cases.

Kitzmann said those close contacts are being offered antibiotics as a preventative measure, but she said it’s not advised for others to go to their doctors to ask for medications.

Rather, people should ensure that their immunizations are up-to-date, cover their coughs and stay home if they are ill, she said.

Kitzmann said it is important for adults and adolescents to receive a booster shot of Tdap, which contains both tetanus and pertussis vaccine, to help prevent spreading the disease to infants who are too young to be immunized.

Pertussis, which causes severe coughing spells, can be especially dangerous – and even deadly – for babies.

For more information, visit:

Iowa Department of Public Health

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

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