Olmsted County's pertussis numbers continue to creep upward and are closing in on the level seen in an outbreak in 2012.
Olmsted County Public Health reports that 23 more pertussis cases have been reported since July 14, pushing the total number to 150 as of this morning. It's by far the highest number in the state this year and the highest local number since more than 250 cases were reported in 2012.
The Minnesota county with the next highest number of pertussis cases is Hennepin with 62, according to the Minnesota Department of Health's June 30 report.
"It's spiking higher than in 2012, but if history is any indication, it might not be slowing down any time soon," said Dawn Beck, associate director of public health in Olmsted County. "We just have to kind of wait to see what comes and continue to do our thing."
Olmsted County's incident command has been activated since May 23 to assist with identifying and interviewing patients, while also helping to spread the word throughout the community. More than 50 groups have been contacted thus far in hopes of stemming the outbreak.
Mayo Clinic Dr. Thomas Boyce, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases, said pertussis outbreaks tend to occur once every 3 to 5 years and typically peak during the summer. The health recommendations change during an outbreak, Dr. Boyce said.
During normal times, residents are encouraged to see a doctor if a cough persists for more than two weeks. During a pertussis outbreak, Dr. Boyce says that "a patient with a cough of any type for any duration should be tested for pertussis unless there is an alternate explanation."
Once pertussis is confirmed in a patient, that person and their whole household, infected or not, are typically given antibiotics to treat the illness and help prevent its spread. Infants, in particular, are considered a "very high risk" during an outbreak, Dr. Boyce said.
Beck says that patients with pertussis should avoid public interaction until they've been on antibiotics for five days, but no such recommendations exist for uninfected household members.
"The best way to fight pertussis is to keep it from developing in the first place," Dr. Boyce said. "All infants and children — as well as adult family members and caregivers — need to be fully vaccinated against pertussis. If you're not sure, ask your doctor to check your vaccine record and make sure it is current.