Chicago suburb has whooping cough outbreak

November 13, 2008 4:30:05 PM PST
There is an outbreak of whooping cough in the Chicago area. It's a highly infectious disease that is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing.

A number of cases have been reported in north suburban Evanston.

Whooping cough is on the radar again as the city of Evanston is reporting an outbreak of the infectious disease.

"As of today, we have five cases and several unconfirmed," siad Margaret Mathias, Evanston Health Department.

Mathias says all of the patients diagnosed in Evanston are under the age of 12, which is an age group most susceptible to whooping cough, officially known as pertussis.

"Pertussis is very treatable. The hard part is recognizing the symptoms and going to the doctor for the test," said Mathias.

The onset of whooping cough can feel like a typical cold: runny nose, sneezing, possibly a low-grade fever and a mild cough that develops into a severe cough, which can last a few weeks.

"Oftentimes it's so prolonged that children will lose their breath and turn blue, and then take a big breath after a coughing spell. So it's cough-cough-cough-cough-cough and then deep breath in, and that's the whoop," said Dr. Stephen Schrantz, Northshore University Healthsystem.

There's typically an outbreak of whooping cough around the country every three to four years. Some counties in our area that had an outbreak a few years ago are bracing for another one, while others report no increase in pertussis.

Winnebago County, which includes Rockford, is sounding the alarm after 38 cases have been reported this year. Lake County reported 75 cases.. And McHenry County reported four cases just in the last month. That's a sharp increase from the average of six to 10 cases a year for area counties. Cook, Kane and DuPage counties will stay within the average number.

Medical experts say whooping cough is treatable with antibiotics and that vaccinations are the best way to stop the spread of the disease.