NewsMissoula County


MCPS details schools affected by pertussis

Posted at 2:13 PM, May 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-01 16:13:24-04

MISSOULA – The number of confirmed pertussis cases rose to 24 on Wednesday.

The majority of whooping cough cases have been reported in the Missoula County Public School system.

MCPS Superintendent Mark Thane released a statement on Wednesday stating that individuals have tested positive for whooping cough at Hawthorne Elementary School, C.S. Porter Middle School, Big Sky High School, Hellgate High School and Sentinel High School.

Thane says that “at each school, we are identifying all close contacts of these students to determine any immediate action needed for families to get medical care for their students.”

The Missoula City-County Health Department, in conjunction with our nursing staff, investigates which people may have been exposed to pertussis — known as contacts — when a case has been confirmed.

A student is not considered a contact unless they have been in a close physical range for a long enough period of time to have been exposed, according to Thane.

It should be noted that students who have been vaccinated against pertussis may still be considered contacts because the vaccine is not 100% effective.

Thane notes that if a student has been identified as someone who has been exposed, the Missoula City-County Health Department will contact them and also send paperwork home explaining what action should be taken.

Anyone who is contacted by local health officials is asked to take the student to a local health care provider. Any student without a regular health care provider can go to any urgent care clinic in Missoula.

Thane noted that “if you have not been contacted by the Health Department, no action is needed at this point.”

He added MCPS is sharing this information “to calm the rumors and fears with some factual information.”

Additional cases of whooping cough have been also confirmed in the Lolo School District and the Florence Carlton Schoo District.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a type of bacteria. It can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.

Pertussis symptoms can appear differently and be less severe in vaccinated individuals, but can still be contagious.


  • Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After coughing fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound.
  • Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 5 to 10 days after you are exposed. Sometimes pertussis symptoms do not develop for as long as 3 weeks.
    Early Symptoms
  • The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. In babies, the cough can be minimal or nonexistent.
  • Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include runny nose, low-grade fever, mild, occasional cough, or Apnea – a pause in breathing (in babies)
  • Pertussis in its early stages appears to be nothing more than the common cold.

Later-stage Symptoms

  • After 1 to 2 weeks and as the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis may appear and include fits of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound, throwing up during or after coughing fits, and exhaustion.

Pertussis in Babies

  • It is important to know that many babies with pertussis don’t cough at all. Instead it causes them to stop breathing and turn blue.

How and When to Get Help

  • If you are experiencing symptoms of Pertussis, see your provider right away.
  • If you or a family member has been identified as exposed, you will receive instructions from the Health Department.
  • The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated. Make sure that you and your family are up to date on your immunizations.
  • If you need information on your immunization status, contact your provider or the Health Department.

Need to get vaccinated?

The Missoula City-County Health Department, located at 301 West Alder St., carries the Pertussis vaccine (DTaP & Tdap) and can bill most insurance plans, including Medicaid. They offer a sliding fee scale for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Call the Immunization Clinic at 406-258-3363 for more information. The clinic offers walk-in hours at the following times: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

If you have not been contacted by the Health Department, no action is needed at this point. If you have additional questions, please contact (406) 258-INFO.