(WEAU) - The number of cases of whooping cough in Buffalo County is up to 15.
The Buffalo County Public Health Department says the first confirmed case was reported in late June. It says it has contacted more than 300 people in the county who may have been exposed to the disease.
The Wisconsin Division of Public Health says in the first half of this year, 424 pertussis cases were investigated statewide, which is a drastic drop-off from the same time period last year.
ALMA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Whooping cough is hitting kids hard in Buffalo County. The Buffalo County Health Department has confirmed nine cases in the last week. But the exposure period dates back to early May. The Health Department says that about 220 of the town's 800 residents may have been exposed. And they've been screened for potential symptoms.
The Buffalo County Health Department says the number of confirmed cases is unusually high considering the state-wide numbers of whooping cough are down. From January 1st to this time last year there were more than 3,000 cases of whooping cough, this year in the same time frame there are less than 400 cases.
“The Alma area schools seem to be where all of the cases located. We do know that there are a few other contacts in other counties as well,” said Health Officer with the Buffalo County Health Department Jen Rombalski.
More than one quarter of the town of Alma may have been exposed to whooping cough. Several people were exposed in Wabasha, Trempealeau, La Crosse, and Pepin counties.
“Right now all confirmed cases are from the students from the Alma school, but there have been some adults that have gone in for testing and treatment,” added Rombalski.
Rombalski says because whooping cough hasn't been a concern this year it’s easy to overlook the symptoms. They might present like a common cold or even allergies.
“This is allergy season and often people have sneezing and cough with allergies, they have a running nose; and those are the same symptoms we see in early stages of pertussis, or whooping cough,” said Rombalski.
“It's a little bit unnerving. It's the last thing you think off during the summer months, you more worried about lake bugs and mosquito bites,” said Megan Thompson.
Thompson frequently visits the Alma campgrounds with her family. With four kids traveling with her this year she says it is a concern now when they go into town.
“Kids get germs from everywhere; so you know you just have to remind them to wash their hands, keep their hands out of their mouths, keep reminding them to cover their coughs,” added Thompson.
Doctors say whooping cough hits young children the hardest.
“We want people to understand just because you're vaccinated doesn't mean with pertussis that you're fully protected,” explained Rombalski.
“It won't stop our weekend but we're definitely be more careful,” added Thompson.
Rombalski says that, along with the help of neighboring counties, the Buffalo County Health Department has the situation under control. She also wanted to remind everyone who is on a treatment to stay isolated for the first five days to prevent the further spread.