The Whooping Cough Outbreak in Montana
Montana is one of the least populated states but it is battling an outbreak of whooping cough as great as many of its more heavily populated sister states. Through May 30, 2012, Montana has seen 252 pertussis cases for the year. The Centers for Disease Control data for 2012 through May 26 reports 242 cases.
Fifteen cases of whooping cough have been diagnosed in infants. Four required hospitalization. Forty-five percent of all pertussis cases in Montana to date have been in children age 10 and under. Only eighteen percent of the illnesses have been in adults.
The Montana whooping cough outbreak is in 18 counties, ten of which run generally along the continental divide in western Montana. The highest number of cases is in two counties, Flathead and Ravalli. Both counties have, through May 30, 53 whooping cough cases each.
Montana has averaged 126 cases of whooping cough for the last ten years, 2002 – 2011. For the last five years, 2007 – 2011, the average has been 91. The last major outbreak of pertussis in Montana was in 2005, when there were 586 cases.
Montana has about one million residents. The state requires a series of four pertussis immunizations to enter kindergarten and a pertussis booster to enter middle school. The state submits an annual report detailing the immunization status of kindergartners and children in seventh grade. The last report is from the last school year, 2010-2011.
Montana allows immunization exemptions for medical or religious reasons. There is also a temporary exemption. For kindergartners in the reported year, there were 508 exemptions and 13 children without a record. The report covered 97 percent of Montana’s public school kindergartners. Of those children, 4.4 percent had an exemption of some sort or no records. Seventh graders had similar exemption numbers.
The report shows that 96.3 percent of Montana’s kindergartners in public schools were up to date on their pertussis immunizations. Some 95.7 percent of seventh graders had received the whooping cough booster and were up to date. There were 12,066 kindergartners and 10,624 seventh graders in Montana public schools for the reporting year.
Private schools in Montana have far fewer children enrolled. For 2010 – 2011, there were 616 kindergartners and 458 seventh graders enrolled in non-public schools. Exemption rates are higher and pertussis immunization rates are much lower than in the public schools. 12.7 percent of their kindergartners lacked the required number of pertussis immunizations. 21.4 percent of their seventh graders were not up to date with their whooping cough immunizations.
KPAX Channel 8 reports that at least two pertussis cases in Flathead County are in children who were exposed and advised to begin antibiotics but never did so. Jefferson County’s Montana City Schools has seen whooping cough in a fourth grader, a sixth grader and an eighth grader, according to KTVQ. About 100 children were exposed and are being treated with antibiotics.
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