Pertussis (whooping cough) is a serious illness and can be very contagious. In the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in number of cases of pertussis identified in the state and in our area.
The State of Pennsylvania has immunization requirements as part of the School Health Act. It is part of my job as your certified school nurse to ascertain vaccination records and make sure they are in compliance with the state regulations. Your school is in compliance with these regulations. However, even though pertussis vaccines are very effective in protecting you from disease, no vaccine is 100%effective. Because pertussis is circulating in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person,of any age, can catch this very contagious disease. If you have been vaccinated, the infection is usually less severe and the “whoop” may be absent.
Information about Pertussis:
Pertussis is a very contagious disease only found in humans. It is spread from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.
Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 7-10 days after being exposed, but sometimes may not develop for as long as 6 weeks after exposure.
Pertussis usually starts with cold-like symptoms: runny nose, low-grade fever, and mild cough. After 1-2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can lead to a series of “coughing fits” that continues for up to 10 weeks or more. This violent and rapid coughing can force the effected person to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. This is where the disease entity gets its name, “whooping cough.” This cyclical coughing can cause the person to vomit and also to be very tired.
Because pertussis in its early stages appears to be nothing more than the common cold,it is often not suspected or diagnosed until the more severe symptoms appear.Infected people are most contagious during this time and up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins. Because of this, the spread of this infection is very hard to control.
Although you are often exhausted after a coughing fit, you usually appear fairly well in-between. Coughing fits generally become more common and severe as the illness continues, and can occur more often at night.
Once diagnosed, whooping cough will be treated with antibiotics. Recovery from pertussis can happen slowly; however, coughing fits can return with other respiratory infections for many months after the initial pertussis infection.
IF YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH PERTUSSIS, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SCHOOL NURSE. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR CHILD’S DOCTOR FOR INSTRUCTIONS PARTICULAR TO YOUR CHILD. RETURN TO SCHOOL WITH A PARENT/GUARDIAN EXCUSAL NOTE AND DOCTOR’S NOTE STATING DIAGNOSIS AND DATE CHILD IS CONSIDERED SAFE TO RETURN TO SCHOOL.
I hope you find this information helpful,
Mary Mellon Somers, School Nurse