In addition the resurgence of the vaccine preventable disease, measles, in the northern Michigan counties of Grand Traverse and Leelanau, perhaps even a bigger issue is what has happened at Grand Traverse Academy (GTA) and their pertussis outbreak.

Image/David Benbennick
Image/David Benbennick

The pertussis, or whooping cough outbreak was first reported by county health officials in early November when there were 18 confirmed and suspected cases of the bacterial infection, which spanned several grades and multiple classrooms at the school.

Here it is more than a month later and the outbreak case count linked to the GTA has topped 150 cases.

An MLive report Thursday notes Grand Traverse County has one of Michigan’s highest rates of schoolchildren opting out of vaccines — twice the state average and six times the national rate for kindergartners in 2013-14.

In fact, in 2013-14, 17 percent of Grand Traverse Academy kindergartners had parents who signed a waiver exempting their children from the required childhood immunizations.

The Grand Traverse County Health Department (GTCHD) says it is important that both children and adults are up-to-date on their immunizations. Booster shots for pertussis are critical because, unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, neither the
pertussis disease nor vaccine confers lifelong immunity.

Children should receive vaccinations (DTaP Vaccine) against pertussis at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months and again between the ages of 4 and 6 years of age. Starting at age 11 all children should receive a single dose of the Tdap vaccine that provides additional protection against pertussis. Any adult who has not received an adult dose of Pertussis vaccine in the past 10 should get a single dose to reduce their risk of contracting or spreading the disease to others.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

Related: California whooping cough epidemic nears 10,000, pertussis vaccine’s ‘waning’ immunity discussed

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

Check out this CDC video of a child with whooping cough:

According to the CDC, in 2013 there were 28,639 cases of pertussis reported nationally.