- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - Medical clinics in the Black Hills are taking precautions because of an outbreak of pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

A medical clinic in Spearfish has put routine checkups on hold for young children. Spearfish Regional Medical Clinic staff have diagnosed 10 cases of pertussis in the past two weeks, and the numbers are expected to rise, pediatrician Angela Anderson told the Black Hills Pioneer.

“We have reorganized our clinic space and staff to handle the influx of patients,” she said. “It has been this way for several weeks but increased in severity recently.”

Regional Hospital is restricting visitation at facilities in Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, Custer, Lead and Deadwood, the Rapid City Journal reported. Two major nursing homes in the region also are taking precautions. The David M. Dorsett Healthcare Community in Spearfish and the Belle Fourche Healthcare Community are asking people not to enter the facilities if they have a cough or are feeling sick.

South Dakota’s Health Department late last week said 29 cases of pertussis had been reported statewide so far this year, compared to 67 in all of last year. More than one-third of this year’s cases have been in the Black Hills.

“For this time of year to have essentially 30 cases, that’s not good for us,” State Epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger said.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that’s spread through the air by cough. It can be treated, and children also can be vaccinated.

“You should be concerned, but you should not panic,” Kightlinger said.