The numbers increase every day that goes by as Missoula County’s pertussis outbreak continues through the spring headed into the summer.

A weary Missoula City County Health Department Director Ellen Leahy provided the update for Thursday.

“I think we’re at 113 cases at the moment,” said Leahy. “We have below a hundred tests still being examined at the State Health Department in Helena. We are getting anywhere from six to nine new cases every day and we’re still seeing new confirmed coming in. As the outbreak changes in numbers we reevaluate our control strategies, and so looking at the fact that we still have a month of school. It’s not that the end of school would end the outbreak, it’s just that the precautions that we’re all attempting to take mean the schools are trying to protect against exposure.”

Leahy said there are 18 to 20 schools in the county that have been affected by the outbreak.

Leahy said normal hygiene precautions will help keep the pertussis outbreak from getting worse.

“First, use ‘cough etiquette’,” she said. Instead of coughing into your hand, instead, cough into the crook of your elbow. If you have a cough, find out why you have it because you may be contagious. It could be pertussis, it could be something else. You should ask yourself if you should be at work or school and that might take a medical evaluation. Remember that the early stages or pertussis are just like a cold, and even though you may have a good work ethic, maybe you should get evaluated in case you have pertussis.”

Leahy said getting the pertussis vaccine or booster may not completely stop the disease, but could lessen the severity of the symptoms.

Missoula County has the highest number of pertussis cases in the state, but other counties have also been affected.


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