Missoula City County Health Department Director Ellen Leahy confirmed on Monday morning that the number of confirmed cases of pertussis has broken the century mark.

“We’re at 100 as of this morning,” said Leahy. “We get most of our tests back in the afternoon, so we’ll see how many we get this afternoon, but the cases do continue to rise. We continue to look for cases and identify them early so that the person can take care of themselves and also to slow the contagion.”

Leahy said a good number of the confirmed cases had been vaccinated against the disease, but there were variables involved in the vaccinations.

“I can tell you that a lot of the confirmed cases had been vaccinated,” she said. “Some of them only partially and some of them fully. Some were not vaccinated at all. There’s a series of vaccinations for pertussis starting in infancy before that first year. There’s also a booster given in the middle school years, so a child who has been through all of those would have been fully vaccinated. In addition, adults need to have a booster unless they received that middle school booster, and that booster was only available starting 12 to 15 years ago, so some of the middle aged or older adults would not have had access to that.”

Leahy said it is possible for adults to ask their healthcare providers for a pertussis booster.

“Your healthcare provider would have to have access to your immunization records, but the recommendation is just to have that one booster in adulthood if you didn’t have the full series in your childhood,” she said. “The present vaccine seems to be waning rather quickly after it has been received, so it’s not holding protection for a long time, yet there’s not a recommendation for a booster.”

Leahy said the health department is temporarily hiring additional registered nurses to help with testing for pertussis, and they are receiving a good response.

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