NewsMissoula County


UPDATE: Missoula area whooping cough cases rise to 89

Posted at 10:14 AM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 12:13:43-04
Missoula City County Health-Department
The Missoula City County Health Department on West Alder Street. (MTN News photo)


MISSOULA – Updated numbers from the Missoula City-County Health Department reveal that there are now 89 confirmed pertussis cases in the Missoula area.

(second report)

MISSOULA – The Missoula City-County Health Department tells MTN News there are now 78 confirmed cases of pertussis in Missoula County with cases reported in 18 schools from pre-schools to High Schools.

Cindy Farr, infectious disease director with the Missoula City-County Health Department says the majority of the whooping cough cases involve high school students.

Farr could not be specific about which schools have been impacted the most by this outbreak.

She also tells us they’re seeing cases in both vaccinated and unvaccinated children.  Children who are vaccinated don’t experience the typical whooping cough symptoms.

Farr says vaccinated people will start out with running nose,  sneezing, mild cough at night; she said it’s not your classic symptoms of pertussis.

Health Department officials have identified more than 1,000 close contacts but say that number is creeping up to about 2,000 close contacts.

The Health Department along with area school nurses continue to screen students and are working with families and employers who may have been in close contact with an infected person.

Farr says they are also concerned about the high-risk community including infants, the elderly, pregnant women or those who are immune compromised.

Reporting by Melissa Rafferty

(first report)

MISSOULA – The number of confirmed whooping cough cases in the Missoula area has jumped to 65, up from the 57 cases reported on Wednesday.

Pertussis cases have been confirmed in several Missoula County Public Schools — including Big Sky, Hellgate Seeley Swan and Sentinel high schools.

Whooping cough cases have also been reported the Florence, Frenchtown and Lolo school districts.

The Missoula City-County Health Department is still working with schools to identify close contacts of confirmed cases.

Local health officials previously told MTN News that due to the number of calls the department has been receiving about the pertussis outbreak, they’ve asked part-time nurses to work full timefor the next couple of weeks.

The Health Department will contact people with instructions if action is needed or will send information home with your child.

People can call the health department at (406) 258-4770 to check your records or get general information. A dedicated webpage with pertussis information has also been established to relay the latest information.

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.