MISSOULA- There are currently 101 confirmed cases and 82 pending, in 18 schools across the county. It has reached every age group and there are almost 2,000 identified close contacts.
The Missoula City-Council Health Department recently told MTN News that they are short staffed and looking to hire four to eight more nurses. But due to an overwhelming response, the applications have since been closed
The health department has four infectious disease nurses on staff and part-time nurses are working extra shifts to help with the pertussis outbreak.
They are doing follow ups with every confirmed case of whooping cough, trying to determine close contacts.
“It definitely takes quite a bit of time to do the full investigation for one case,” Missoula City-County Health Department Infectious Disease Supervisor Cindy Farr said.
The county is currently seeing eight to 15 new cases a day. The nurses continue to contact parents of kids who may be a close contact.
“We’ve also got some of those nurses going out to the schools and helping the school nurses because they’re completely overloaded with the number of kids that need to get screened,” Farr said
Farr also said she expects the outbreak will calm down once school lets out for the summer.
“It’s definitely still spreading. We’ definitely seeing it all over the community, we’re just hoping we can get through the end of the school year and get these kids not congregating all in one room coughing on each other and then maybe we can start to see a decline.”
High school students typically have about 100 close contacts at school. That number is likely higher for students with jobs or extracurriculars.
Farr is reminding people to check their immunization status and go to the doctor if you or your child are showing symptoms. “Practice good health hygiene and hopefully we can get through this outbreak without a whole lot more cases.”
Studies have found the pertussis vaccine to be 70% to 80% effective, compared to the measles vaccine which is about 90% effective.
Health officials are still encouraging people to get the DTaP vaccine and any necessary boosters because it will lessen symptoms if you do get sick.
You can find more information by calling 258-INFO or going online to the Missoula County Pertussis website.