ROCHESTER, MN. - Several cases of whooping cough or pertussis have been confirmed in Olmsted County, according to the Rochester Youth Hockey Association.
The league sent out a message to members on Tuesday night stating, "Olmsted Public Health is reporting several cases of confirmed and suspected pertussis across the Rochester Youth Hockey teams."
No one from the Olmsted County Public Health was available on Tuesday or Wednesday to comment on the message.
It's unknown exactly how many cases have been confirmed, but the word among hockey association members is that at least one team has most of its players down with the illness, and scattered members of other teams are also sick.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can cause severe coughing and trouble breathing, often producing a whooping sound for which it's named. The condition can prove fatal for infants and elderly, but is most commonly found among adolescents.
Local health officials have previously stated that pertussis is a cyclical illness that typically hits communities hard every three years.
In 2016, Olmsted County was hit with a summer/fall outbreak of 246 pertussis confirmed cases with an annual total of least 261 cases. That was a record-breaking year with Olmsted County leading the state in pertussis cases.
Olmsted County's previous record year had been in 2012, when about 250 cases were confirmed.
As the best way to prevent whooping cough, a vaccine is often given with diphtheria and tetanus vaccinations, with five doses through a child's first four to six years. After that, immunity can wane by age 11 and physicians recommend boosters throughout adulthood, especially for people who deal with children on a regular basis.
While vaccination is the best defense, other steps can help decrease the spread of illness, according to the Olmsted County Health Department. They include covering mouths while coughing, washing hands often and staying home when ill.
Whooping cough can be contagious for three weeks without treatment. With antibiotics, the spread is limited to five days.