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Z-M hit with whooping cough

Minnesota Department of Health is working with local agencies and clinics to control a pertussis outbreak in Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools.

There were 24 confirmed cases of the bacterial respiratory disease also called whooping cough in the school district as of Friday afternoon, said Vicki Iocco, public health nurse with Goodhue County Health & Human Services.

The outbreak has mostly affected third- through sixth-graders, which is in line with past cases and outbreaks across the region, she said.

An email from the school district to parents states that a “high number” of students have been absent due to whooping cough, as well as colds and flu, in recent days.

“As district protocol, we advise parents to keep children home from school if they have cold/flu symptoms or if they are running a temperature,” according to the email.

The district says it is cleaning and disinfecting classrooms according to custodial procedures.

“(Contagiousness) depends on how close you are to somebody who has it,” Iocco said about the chances of contracting whooping cough. People can be contagious during the first three weeks of developing a cough if not treated with antibiotics.

Health officials recommend those who have been in close contact with an infected person or had face-to-face contact while the person is coughing to watch for symptoms and contact their medical provider for preventative antibiotics.

Household members, especially infants and pregnant women, also are recommended to receive preventative antibiotics.

Early symptoms of whooping cough include runny nose, mild cough and slight fever, with a severe cough developing within a couple weeks and lasting for months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people experience violent coughing fits with a distinctive “whooping” noise as they inhale.

Treatment for older children and adults usually can be done at home with antibiotics to speed up recovery, Dr. Elizabeth Cozine with Mayo Clinic Health System said in a news release. Patients should stay home for five days after beginning treatment to ensure they are no longer infectious.

There were 22 whooping cough cases in Goodhue County in 2012, Iocco said, part of a larger outbreak of more than 4,000 cases statewide that year. Last year saw four confirmed cases in the county.

Tdap vaccine

The disease typically affects school-aged children, but adults are also susceptible, Iocco said. All adults and teens are recommended to get the Tdap vaccine which protects against whooping cough.

This is the first year Tdap is required for Minnesota seventh-graders.

Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools has around 1,100 enrolled students in grades K-12, according to the district website.

Iocco said that community members should not be worried unless they have had a lot of contact with students. “There’s a lot of coughs and flu going around, and it doesn’t mean you have whooping cough.”

Questions can be directed to Goodhue County Public Health, 651-385-6100, Wabasha County Public Health, 651-565-5200, or the Minnesota Department of Health, 507-206-2716.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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