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Pertussis, also referred to as Whooping Cough, has been mentioned recently in both national and local news.  This vaccine preventable disease has been reported on because of a rise in the number of confirmed cases recently.  I would like to provide some information about Pertussis (Whooping Cough) that you may find helpful.

Pertussis, better known as Whooping Cough, is highly contagious an is one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.  Many infants who get Pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.  In 2010, several states, including Ohio, have reported an increase in Pertussis cases as compared to the same time in 2009.  This year in Lucas County there were over 12 cases reported during July and the first half of August.  This compares with 5 cases for all of 2009 for Lucas County.  It is thought that the immunity developed from the vaccine fades in 5-10 years, and that boosters are needed for teens and adults to prevent spread to children.  The updated Ohio requirements for a Pertussis booster (Tdap) for 7th grade entry are expected to reduce the number of cases.

Common symptoms of Pertussis include a gradual onset that initially resembles the common cold with sneezing, a low grade fever, and cough for 1-2 weeks.  The cough gradually becomes more severe with paroxysms, gasping, and a characteristic whooping sound.  The individual may not have a fever at this stage.  The paroxysmal cough may last 4-10 weeks.  Older children and adults may not necessarily exhibit whooping.  Individuals with Pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others who then breathe in the Pertussis bacteria.  Incubation is commonly 5-10 days after exposure.  Communicability is greatest in the first several weeks and lasts for approximately 21 days after onset of cough.  Young infants are at the greatest risk fro complications from Pertussis.
While we have not had any confirmed cases of Pertussis at St. Joseph School, I encourage parents of children with an ongoing cough to follow up with their physicians.  At times, families may assume a cough is due to asthma or other respiratory conditions, delaying diagnosis and resulting in spread among family, friends, and classmates. 

Confirmation of Pertussis is through culture of a nasal swab.  Antibiotics are prescribed for confirmed cases and prophylactic antibiotics for those family and friends with close contact to the confirmed case.  Children with confirmed cases should not attend school or extracurricular activities until 5 days after beginning antibiotic therapy. 

Adults, including new mothers and healthcare personnel, are encouraged to get the recommended booster to help reduce the risk of illness for themselves and their families.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2008, 40% of individuals aged 13-17 had coverage fro Pertussis through the Tdap vaccine and only 6% of adults had coverage.

If your child should experience the symptoms as described, it would be advisable to contact your child's doctor for further evaluation/care.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions/concerns you have.

Therese Hoehn, R.N. B.S.N., P.C.N.