- Associated Press - Thursday, September 4, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Pottawatomie County has experienced a recent increase in whooping cough cases, leading some school districts to offer free vaccinations to students and employees.

Seventeen cases have been confirmed in Pottawatomie County since the beginning of August. Last year, the northeast Kansas county had one case, according to the Kansas Department of Health of Environment. Overall, the state has 172 confirmed cases so far this year, compared to 405 cases in all of 2013.

The disease, also called pertussis, typically starts with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, congestion, low-grade fever and a mild cough but can progress to prolonged or severe coughing, vomiting and exhaustion. It is highly contagious, but there is a vaccine for it.

All schools within the Wamego School District have offered free vaccinations to staff members. Students at West Elementary, the hardest hit school in the district, were offered vaccinations on Wednesday, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1pqdH47 ).

“It has been a stressful two weeks,” said Denise O’Dea, the district’s superintendent.

St. Marys schools also had vaccines administered to students and staff members in May, said Leslie Campbell, health director for the Pottawatomie County Health Department in Westmoreland.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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