Pertussis case confirmed at Whitworth Elementary

DALLAS — A child at Whitworth Elementary School has been positively diagnosed with a case of pertussis, or whooping cough. The Dallas School District sent out letters of the confirmed case on Friday afternoon.

Pertussis is a highly contagious, serious bacterial infection, according to the informational letter sent by DSD. It is spread by coughing and sneezing.

“It starts with a mild cough and can be very similar to cold-like symptoms,” said Katrina Rothenberger, public health administrator for Polk County Public Health.

If a cough persists longer than two weeks — or causes gagging or vomiting — that person should be tested for whooping cough, she said, especially if the patient is a child or infant.

“Our recommendation is to test patients with a cough of two weeks duration or a close contact with a confirmed case with acute cough,” she said.

People who are up to date on DTap vaccinations — having received five vaccinations upon entering kindergarten — are considered protected against the disease.

Children who are not up to date on their DTap vaccinations would have been excluded from school on Feb. 18, Rothenberger said, unless the child has a medical or non-medical exemption, in which case, parents should work with school officials and with their health care providers to see if they should take extra precautions.

The vaccination is one that requires boosters, Rothenberger said, noting that the vaccine is only good for five to 10 years.

It is not uncommon for a case of pertussis to be confirmed, she said.

“I wish it was rare, because it’s pretty bad, especially if you get it as a baby,” Rothenberger said. “It is serious in that if we do get an outbreak, if we have several kids in a school that have confirmed cases of pertussis, we will work with that school district about excluding kids who are not vaccinated.”

For more information: Polk County Public Health, 503-623-8175; Dallas School District nurse, 503-623-8351; or your health care provider.

What to Look For

What are the symptoms of pertussis?

• The first symptoms — runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and cough — usually appear five to 21 days after a person is infected.

• After one or two weeks, the cough gets worse and usually starts to occur in strong fits of coughing. This may last six weeks or longer.

• In children, coughing fits are often followed by a whooping sound as they try to catch their breath.

• After coughing, infected people may have difficulty catching their breath, vomit or become blue in the face from lack of air. The coughing spells may be so severe that it is hard for babies to eat, drink or breathe.

— Source Oregon Health Authority

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