OTTUMWA — Wapello County Public Health announced several cases of whooping cough at the end of October in the county. Registered Nurse Vicki Haney said there’s no need to panic.

“After the outbreak, we haven’t had more cases,” Haney said. “A doctor has been testing more children, and all of their results have come back negative. Other people were fully vaccinated, which means there’s the unlikelihood of pertussis [whooping cough] coming back.”

The Mayo Clinic defines whooping cough as a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It can mimic a cold with a runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion. It’s marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop,” giving the illness its name.

A person can take precautions against the illness if they pursue good hand washing habits, cover their mouths, stay home when they are ill and have a healthy diet.

“A person should also get plenty of rest and not underestimate a good diet,” Haney said. “Eat more vegetables than fruits and meat twice a week, and cut out a lot of fat and sugars. Get eight hours of sleep and 150 minutes of exercise as well. It really does make a difference.”

Young children and the elderly are more likely to get whooping cough because children don’t have their immune systems fully developed and elders may have underlying conditions such as heart and lung disease.

“If a person does come in contact with whooping cough, it’s always good to have a tetanus shot every 10 years,” she said. “If they haven’t had the shot, it doesn’t mean they’ll get pertussis. Just because a person comes into contact doesn’t mean they should isolate themselves. If you begin feeling ill, it’s a good time to start seeing a doctor.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, health care providers can treat whooping cough with antibiotics. “Treatment may make your infection less serious if you start it early, before coughing fits begin,” the website said. “Treatment can also help prevent spreading the disease to close contacts (people who have spent a lot of time around the infected person).”

The website also recommends managing whooping cough by “following a schedule for giving antibiotics prescribed by a child’s doctor, keeping the home free of irritants that can trigger coughing, such as smoke, dust, and chemical fumes. Using a clean, cool mist vaporizer to help loosen mucus and soothe the cough and encouraging your child to eat small meals every few hours to help prevent vomiting (throwing up) from occurring.”

Wapello County Public Health offers whooping cough vaccines for children only. Adults can get flu and Hepatitis B vaccines. For more information or questions, call the Wapello County Public Health department at 641-682-5434.

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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