Whooping cough case surfaces at middle school
A case of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, was identified at Warm Springs Middle School in mid-December, School Superintendent David Banks said at the December 20 Morgan County School Board meeting.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bor-detella pertussis. It is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes or through contact with their nose or throat secretions.
A letter from Morgan County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Kevin McLaughlin was sent home from schools on December 16 to parents and guardians advising them about the whooping cough case.
In the letter, McLaughlin urged that if a child or family member had symptoms of a respiratory illness followed by a prolonged cough causing vomiting, that they should contact their primary care physician. Ensuring that children’s immunizations were up-to-date was also encouraged.
The school system also arranged for free pertussis immunizations on December 20 for all school staff that wished to participate.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, whooping cough is known for its uncontrollable, violent coughing, which can make it difficult for patients to breathe.
After fits of coughing, someone with pertussis is often gasping for breath and breathes in deeply, which makes the whooping sound.
Can be fatal
The disease commonly attacks young children and babies and can be fatal, especially in infants under one year of age. Whooping cough can affect people of all ages, but is more severe in the young.
More than half of all babies with reported whooping cough are hospitalized. The coughing can get so severe that they can’t eat, drink or breathe.
Complications in children can include bacterial pneumonia, convulsions and brain damage. The disease causes 10 to 20 deaths annually in the United States.
Whooping cough is generally treated with antibiotics to control the symptoms and to keep those infected from spreading the disease.
Whooping cough begins with cold-like symptoms, a mild cough and maybe a runny nose at first, said Mor-gan County Health Department nurse Angel Bloom previously. There could be also a slight fever and loss of appetite.
The cough progresses into violent and rapid coughing fits a week or two later that can last from four to 10 weeks. The uncontrollable coughs are often followed by vomiting and exhaustion.
Seek treatment if a child is having this kind of cough or see a doctor if there is trouble breathing, Bloom said.
The best way to prevent whooping cough is to be immunized for the disease. DTaP vaccines for infants and children and Tdap vaccine for pre-teens, teens and adults protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Vaccinated children and adults can become infected and infect others with
whooping cough, but the disease is usually less severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Outbreaks of whooping cough can occur at middle schools and high schools since the protection from childhood immunizations is starting to wear off.
Adults, childcare providers and health care providers who have close contact with infants should receive a dose of Tdap. Vaccination with Tdap of family members and caregivers of new infants is very important.
Whooping cough epidemic
California has had 9,143 cases of whooping cough reported in 2010, including 10 infant deaths. It’s the most cases reported there since 1947. In 2010, some 27,550 cases of pertussis were reported nationally. Many more cases go unreported.
Other states including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio have also had outbreaks. Cases peak every three to five years.