Whooping Cough alert for Ashland Middle School

jackson-county-oregonThe Jackson County Health  Department is alerting Ashland residents that students from Ashland Middle School have been diagnosed with Pertussis. Pertussis, also called “Whooping Cough”, is a disease caused by a bacteria and is easily spread from person to person.  It can cause serious complications, especially for infants, pregnant women in their third trimester, and people with compromised immune systems.

The health department is warning that students may have been exposed. After being infected with Pertussis, the first cold-like symptoms appear in about 10 days (1-3 weeks).  After a week or two, the ‘cold’ goes away, but the cough becomes more pronounced with coughing spells that can trigger a gag reflex and take your breath away.  Sometimes a ‘whoop’ is heard as the person gasps for air.  In between coughing spells, the person may appear and feel fine.

If you or your child develops symptoms you are advised to contact your health-care provider for advice and/or a Pertussis culture as well as treatment.  It takes 5 days of antibiotics before the patient is no longer contagious.

To help prevent the spread of this disease, you are encouraged to:
cough•        Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
•        Practice frequent hand-washing
•        Avoid sharing cups, drinks, etc.
•        Make sure everyone in your family is up-to-date with their vaccines

Pertussis can be prevented by vaccination.  Dtap is available for children under 7 years of age, and Tdap is now available for older kids/adults (ages 10-64 years).

Taking antibiotics during the incubation period may also prevent the disease.  This is often recommended when there is a person in the household with pertussis, if there is an infant in the home, someone with a compromised immune system, or a woman in the last trimester of pregnancy.

In 2003, an 11-week-old Klamath Falls boy died during a serious outbreak of Whooping Cough in Klamath and Jackson Counties.

This recent case of pertussis is a good reminder of the importance of keeping vaccinations up to date. If you have any additional questions about whooping cough, possible exposure, or you need assistance with getting vaccinated, call the Jackson County Health Department at 541-774-8045.