Whooping cough spike sparks warning from MI health officials

whooping cough vaccine
In this Dec. 10, 2014 photo, Julietta Losoyo, right, a registered nurse at the San Diego Public Health Center gives Derek Lucero a whooping cough injection while in his father’s arms as his brother looks on. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is investigating a spike in whooping cough cases in Oakland County.

Between January and December 2016, tests confirmed 448 cases statewide of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, according to MDHHS spokeswoman Angela Minicuci. Nearly half of those cases happened in Oakland County, where 185 fell ill with whooping cough.

Minicuci says the next highest case count was in Washtenaw County, were 40 people had confirmed whooping cough.

Confirmed cases were significantly lower in West Michigan, based on the following preliminary data for 2016:

  • Kent County: 16 cases
  • Kalamazoo County: 13 cases
  • Ottawa County: 6 cases
  • Muskegon County: 3 cases

Minicuci said officials have not pinpointed a specific outbreak location in Oakland County.

The MDHHS is working with Oakland County health officials to respond to the spike in whooping cough cases and determine its cause. Minicuci said they’re investigating if patients became sick before finishing the series of pertussis vaccines or if they were immunized at all.

>>PDF: Facts about pertussis

Doctors recommend infants get the pertussis vaccine at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 15 months. The last dose is given at 4 years old.

Pertussis spreads easily through coughing, sneezing and close contact and can be difficult to diagnose, according to Dr. Eden Wells of the MDHHS. Infants younger than 12 months are at greatest risk of developing a severe case of pertussis, as they are not fully vaccinated.

Among those suffering from pertussis, coughing can become so severe it empties all air from their lungs, causing the classic whooping sound as they inhale.  Additional symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Mild fever
  • Dry cough
  • Vomiting after coughing fits