There are more than 170 reported cases of whooping cough in Montana. State health officials say local outbreaks in parts of western Montana are driving the recent uptick.
The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reports recent outbreaks of whooping cough in Missoula, Flathead and Lake counties.
The spike in the disease over the last three weeks has pushed the number of current cases to 176. That’s above last year’s total of 143.
Stacey Anderson, a communicable diseases epidemiologist with the DPHHS, says the number of cases remains well below levels reported during previous statewide outbreaks in 2005 and 2012. But she says it’s possible Montana could be due for another flare-up of the disease, which happens every handful years.
"It could be that we’re heading into another one of those cycles."
Anderson says the increase this year is being seen in high-schoolers.
"They’re older high school aged students. They have a vaccine history. And yet they’re still getting the disease."
There is some concern, Anderson says, that vaccination immunity to pertussis is fading as kids reach this age.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccination is the best protection against the disease, but "whooping cough vaccines used now do not last as long as health care professionals would like."