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Cerro Gordo Health Department confirms cases of Pertussis in county

MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health has been conducting case investigations in response to lab confirmed positive Pertussis (also known as Whooping Cough) cases in Cerro Gordo County.

Whooping Cough is a reportable disease within the state of Iowa, and the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health is responsible for conducting thorough case investigations to identify additional cases and high risk contacts. To date, the Health Department has investigated seven lab confirmed positive cases within our county. Through ongoing case investigations, Whooping Cough has been identified in the Mason City Community School District and in staff at the McDonald’s South location. The Health Department, the Mason City Community School District, and McDonald’s are working together to protect the health of their students, employees, and patrons.

“Our biggest concern right now is to stop the spread of Whooping Cough within our community”, said Jeni Stiles, Infectious Disease Nurse at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health. “Whooping Cough is spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing or having close contact with an infected person for an extended period of time.”

Since the Health Department has identified cases of Whooping Cough within the community, it is important for all residents to be aware of Whooping Cough signs and symptoms, and what to do if you or a member of your family becomes ill.


Whooping Cough is a bacterial disease. It is spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near one another where you are sharing breathing spaces. Many babies who get Whooping Cough are infected by older siblings, parents, or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. Infected people are most contagious up to about two weeks after the cough begins, however antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious. While Pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100% effective. When Whooping Cough circulates in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease. If you have gotten the Pertussis vaccine but still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.


Symptoms of Whooping Cough usually develop within 5-10 days after you are exposed. The early symptoms of Whooping Cough can last from 1-2 weeks and include:

–          Runny nose.

–          Low-grade fever.

–          Mild, occasional cough.

–          Apnea – a pause in breathing (in babies).

The later stage symptoms begin after 1-2 weeks and as the disease progresses:

–          Coughing “fits” of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound.

–          Vomiting during or after coughing fits.

–          Exhaustion after cough fits.


“If you or a family member is experiencing symptoms of Whooping Cough, it is very important that you see your family doctor, receive testing and treatment, and isolate yourself or your family member from school, work, and other activities through the duration of antibiotic treatment (typically five days)”, explains Stiles. “We are asking employers to monitor their staff for symptoms of Whooping Cough and exclude them from work until testing and treatment can be completed. Isolation is critical to prevent the spread of the illness in our community.”


You can prevent Whooping Cough by taking these actions:

  • Get yourself and your children the Pertussis vaccine. This is the best way to prevent Whooping Cough.
  • If you or a member of your household has been diagnosed with Whooping Cough, you doctor may recommend preventative antibiotics to other household members.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put your used tissues in the wastebasket.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, NOT your hands, if you do not have a tissue.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.


For more information about Whooping Cough, please call the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health at (641) 421-9359.

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