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Pertussis news

Frenchtown Families:

We need to inform you that we have a High School student who has tested positive for pertussis (also known as whooping cough) which is a respiratory disease, we are identifying all close contacts of this student to determine any immediate action needed for families to get medical care for their students.


The Missoula City-County Health Department, in conjunction with our nursing staff, investigates which people may have been exposed to pertussis when a case has been confirmed. These people are called “contacts”. A student is not considered a contact unless they have been in a close physical range for a long enough period of time to have been exposed.  Students who have been vaccinated against pertussis may still be considered contacts because the vaccine is not 100% effective. 


If you or your student has been identified as someone who has been exposed, the Health Department will call you and send paperwork home with your student explaining the action you should take.

If you are contacted by the Health Department and instructed to do so, please take your student to your health care provider’s office. If you do not have a regular health care provider, then take your student to any urgent care clinic in Missoula.

If you have not been contacted by the Health Department, no action is needed at this point.  We are sharing this information with all families now to calm the rumors and fears with some factual information. If you still have concerns, please contact your healthcare provider.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a type of bacteria. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old. Pertussis symptoms can appear differently and be less severe in vaccinated individuals, but still be contagious.


Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After coughing fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound. Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 5 to 10 days after you are exposed. Sometimes pertussis symptoms do not develop for as long as 3 weeks.

Early Symptoms

The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. In babies, the cough can be minimal or not even evident. Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include runny nose, low-grade fever, mild, occasional cough, or apnea – a pause in breathing (in babies).  Pertussis in its early stages appears to be nothing more than the common cold.

Later-stage Symptoms

After 1 to 2 weeks and as the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis may appear and include fits of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound, throwing up during or after coughing fits, and exhaustion.

Pertussis in Babies

It is important to know that many babies with pertussis don’t cough at all. Instead it causes them to stop breathing and turn blue.

How and When to Get Help

  • If you are experiencing symptoms of pertussis, see your provider right away.
  • If you or a family member has been identified as exposed, you will receive instructions from the Health Department.
  • The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated. Make sure that you and your family are up to date on your immunizations.
  • If you need information on your immunization status, contact your provider or the Health Department.

Need to get vaccinated?

The Missoula City-County Health Department, located at 301 West Alder St., carries the Pertussis vaccine (DTaP & Tdap) and can bill most insurance plans, including Medicaid. They offer a sliding fee scale for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Call the Immunization Clinic at 406-258-3363 for more information.

The clinic offers walk-in hours at the following times:

  • 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
  • 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday

If you have additional questions, please contact 258-INFO.