One case of pertussis was confirmed at Summerville Elementary School on May 5, and several additional cases of respiratory illness currently under investigation by the Tuolumne County Health Department are suspected of being due to pertussis, also known as "Whooping Cough," at other schools throughout the county. Parents of students are being notified to be on the lookout for respiratory illness that follows the pattern of whooping cough and are being asked to review the vaccination history of their children to assure that vaccinations are up to date. All students should receive four doses of “DTaP” vaccine before two years of age, a booster dose before kindergarten and another booster “Tdap” vaccine before 7th grade.
Whooping cough illness typically occurs in three stages. Illness often starts with a period of stuffy nose, mild cough and occasionally a fever, followed by the second phase in which a severe, dry, hacking cough develops and lasts two to six weeks. This cough can lead to a gasping noise known as the “whoop” and may even result in vomiting, although such symptoms may be absent (particularly in fully vaccinated people). In the third phase of the illness, the cough slowly subsides over weeks or even months.
Whooping cough is passed from person to person by droplets in the air caused by coughing or sneezing. Covering one’s mouth with a bent elbow, washing the hands regularly, and staying home from work or school until no longer infectious are all important steps to take to prevent transmission. After five days of an antibiotic, infected persons can usually return to work activities without risk of transmitting the illness. Untreated persons should avoid school or work for three weeks after onset of cough. If you experience severe cough illness and think you may have pertussis, call your health care provider.
Most vaccinated people will resist infection. While some people may still contract the infection even if they are vaccinated, the illness tends to be less severe if vaccinations are up to date. This illness tends to occur in cycles every 5 to 7 years and California last experienced high rates of pertussis in 2009-2010. The state has seen climbing rates since mid-2013.
Pertussis is most dangerous for infants under one year of age, for pregnant mothers, and for children with chronic respiratory illness like asthma or cystic fibrosis. The best way to protect such groups is for their family members and contacts to be vaccinated.