Northwest Colorado remains whooping cough-free
Diagnosis of recent disease outbreaks remains mostly concentrated in communities along Front Range
December 16, 2001
By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
Despite a recent outbreak of whooping cough cases in parts of Colorado, Moffat County remains whooping cough-free.
“There haven’t been any cases reported here,” said Susan Bowler, a registered nurse and public health team leader at the Visiting Nurse Association. “It seems to be centered in the Denver and Fort Collins area.”
Last week at Campus Middle School in Greenwood Village, 16 students were diagnosed as having whooping cough, scientifically known as Pertussis.
Since 1980, the United States has seen an average of 3,700 cases of whooping cough per year.
Last year 488 whooping cough cases were reported in Colorado, the highest number of cases since 1963.
So far this year, 297 cases have been reported.
“It’s not common, but it does happen,” Bowler said.
The illness involves severe coughing that often leads to vomiting and breathlessness.
The disease is characterized and named for a whooping sound people often make after they cough.
Early on in the sickness people suffer from a runny nose and sneezing, common cold symptoms, Bowler said. After about two weeks is when people develop paroxysms, which are sudden coughing attacks.
“This is when you start coughing and it goes on and on and on,” she said.
“People have a mucus they are trying to get out,” she said. “When they take a breath you hear a high pitched ‘whoop’.”
People will likely experience about 15 coughing spells in a 24-hour period, and this will last about three weeks.
“You’re pretty sick,” Bowler said.
Erythromycin is the antibiotic used to treat whooping cough.
“You give it to the person that has it as well as other people in the household and those who are in close contacts,” she said. “Coughing is how it is passed, so covering one’s mouth and frequent hand washing is advised.”
Although no cases have been reported in Northwest Colorado, there’s always a chance it could sneak into the area.
“If someone was recently in the Fort Collins or Denver area they could have picked it up and brought it back to the community,” she said.
Young children should be safe from whooping cough if they were properly immunized as babies.
“If a child gets it, it’s because they didn’t have their immunization,” she said. “But immunizations wane over time, which is why you see more adults with whooping cough.”
Seven fatalities have a occurred as a result of whooping cough in Colorado between 1996 and 2000, but Bowler said most adult immune systems are strong enough to fight off the disease.
“Don’t panic, and wash your hands frequently,” she said.