BOZEMAN – The Gallatin County Health Department confirmed three cases of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, in the Bozeman School District on Thursday.
Health Officer Matt Kelley said his office is working with the schools to make sure the outbreak doesn’t take a dangerous turn.
“It can be a pretty miserable disease,” said Kelley. “I have seen photos of people who have pertussis where kids have given themselves black eyes. I mean, it is nothing to mess to mess around with.”
Whooping cough is a disease that got its name due to the “whoop” sound people typically make during the coughing fit. Although vaccination for the disease is routine, Kelly said no vaccine is 100% and no population is 100% vaccinated.
The people at most risk to contract the disease are infants, people with previous health conditions, or people with weakened immune systems.
“It can be really serious and can lead to death in some cases where you have somebody who has an underlying health condition and is untreated or goes without treatment for a long period of time,” said Kelley.
The Health Department said the scariest part of this disease is the fact that it usually starts out with symptoms of the common cold including a cough and runny nose, which later can turn into an uncontrollable cough and vomiting.
Bozeman Superintendent of Schools Rob Watson said parents who have children in class with people who have been diagnosed with whooping cough have been notified.
“I think what we are trying to do now is let parents know that those students who are in a class where there is a confirmed case, we have already sent the letter,” said Watson. “So if they have received the letter just follow the directions.”
The Health Department said any parent that is concerned about their child can talk to a nurse in its office. The department highly recommends if the child does have whooping cough to get on antibiotics.
“It is not a cause for people to panic,” said Kelley. “The good news is it is a treatable disease. The good news is we know about this particular situation, and the good news is we have a great team of public health nurses, school nurses and school staff that are working, as well as parents. I mean, parents play a key role in this and they have been great.”
The Health Department will continue to update the public if more cases become confirmed.
Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News