APPLETON - Whooping cough, also know as pertussis has hit school after school in Appleton. Seventeen of them in all and health officials say the illness is not done yet.
"We're working very closely with the schools, we've sent over 15,000 notifications so far," said Appleton Health Officer Kurt Eggebrecht.
Right now Appleton has 92 lab-confirmed cases of whooping cough since December. Eggebrecht says there are dozens more suspected cases. The most vulnerable groups to the disease are newborns and the elderly.
"The only way you can truly protect them is to keep the people in their life from becoming ill," said Eggebrecht.
That's the goal of the "Tdap cocoon" program by ThedaCare.
"We want to get mom, dad, grandma, baby sitters, if we can get everybody with close contact with the baby vaccinated, the chances of the baby getting pertussis are much less likely," said ThedaCare Staff Development Educator Jessie Van Lannen.
The vaccine is free to any family members and close contacts of a baby born at Appleton Medical Center or Theda Clark Medical Center. The program is administered by the state. A dozen people took advantage of it on the first day.
"Infants don't get their first vaccine against pertussis until two months, so they are at a really vulnerable state between birth and two months," said Van Lannen.
It takes five shots before a child is fully vaccinated against whooping cough. Even then Eggebrecht says the vaccine is no guarantee to prevent the illness.
"It's like putting out fires, every time you get a case you have to treat it aggressively to make sure it doesn't continue to spread throughout the community."
Eggebrecht says the whooping cough outbreak in Appleton is slowing down, but it could still be several months before it comes to an end.
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