A renewed push is underway to make sure people of all ages are vaccinated for pertussis or whooping cough.
The Wisconsin Division of Public Health says the Badger state is the worst in the nation right now, seeing a huge outbreak with 5,668 cases through mid-December.
Last year, there were only about 1,200 cases.
It's the worst this year in the southern part of the state, in Dane, Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.
In our area, the most cases are in Outagamie, Brown, Winnebago, and Calumet counties. Outagamie County has 386 cases so far in 2012. Brown has seen 123 cases.
Anyone can get whooping cough, but it's the most dangerous for babies.
The outbreak is prompting those who are around children to take precautions and urge for vaccinations.
The sound of child with pertussis coughing it is a sound no parent or childcare provider ever wants to hear, but with Wisconsin leading the nation for whooping cough cases, many daycares are now on alert for it.
"It definitely heightens awareness. The teachers are aware that it's there, and we listen to the kids and if they cough, and if it starts to have that whooping type sound, we're obviously more likely to call the parents and ask them to take the child in and get them checked out," says Julie Frase, Director of Operations at the Cornerstone Center, Encompass Early Education and Care.
Pediatricians, including Prevea Health's Dr. Andrea French, take those kinds of calls from parents more seriously now as the state confirms more cases, especially knowing the danger pertussis poses to babies.
"We are continuing to see a rise of cases. I've even had, within the last year, I've had a couple of under six months in the hospital because of it. It sort of pushes the need for immunizations and the importance of the immunizations," says Dr. French.
Children are vaccinated five times by kindergarten and again around age 12, but doctors and many county health departments recommend anyone around babies be vaccinated.
The Brown County Health Department says the updated vaccine has only been available for adults for about seven years, so many still need it.
"We've really been pushing now that we have that vaccine for the older kids and adults, pushing individuals to get that vaccine," says Judy Friedrichs, Brown County Health Department Director.
Still, as cases increase, childcare providers are as cautious as possible.
"Our teachers are very aware that they are in group care, and we do the best that we can with using bleach and water and sanitizing and disinfecting and keeping the toys children have had in their mouth out of the general population," says Frase.
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