Whooping cough outbreak in Lane County

Lane County Health and Human Services officials are reporting 12 cases of Pertussis (whooping cough) at Sheldon High School. 

“Given the high reproductive rate for Pertussis (one case can cause up to 16 new cases), this many cases in this short of time is especially troublesome,” said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Chief Health Officer for Lane County Public Health. “Fortunately, we have had great team effort with the school, now it’s time to ask our community members for help by getting vaccinated.” 

Whopping cough is highly contagious and symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and cough. The cough can worsen over the course of a few days and be accompanied by vomiting and spasms. Infants commonly display more severe symptoms. 

The duration of the infection can be up to two weeks with a debilitating cough for up to 90 days. Individuals exhibiting these symptoms are encouraged to refrain from contact with children, stay home from work or school for up to 21 days and seek medical attention. If a doctor prescribes antibiotics, this exclusion from work and school can be reduced to as little as five days.

Pertussis is particularly dangerous for children younger than one year of age. Most deaths occur in unvaccinated children or in children too young to be vaccinated who contract the disease from a family member. These family members may be unvaccinated or unaware that immunity from initial childhood vaccinations wanes after five-10 years and thus have not received their booster.

As a result, it is critical that infants begin the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) immunization series on schedule and all family members receive the Tdap booster (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). The first three shots for infants are given at two, four, and six months of age. The fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given before a child enters school, at four to six years of age. DTaP and Tdap are covered by most health insurance plans and are readily available through a number of facilities including pharmacies. Individuals interested in receiving the vaccine or booster should contact their preferred health care provider.

Since the bacteria are typically spread by coughing or sneezing, it is also important that everyone practices proper respiratory hygiene. This includes covering your cough or sneeze, properly disposing of used tissue and frequently washing hands, even if you do not display symptoms.

For additional information on Pertussis, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html

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