8 whooping cough cases confirmed at Davie High

Published 10:21 am Thursday, December 17, 2015

On Dec. 9, a letter by school officials to Davie High parents was posted on the school’s website informing them a student had been diagnosed with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.

By Dec. 14, that number had risen to eight laboratory confirmed cases, and two more awaiting confirmation, according to Suzanne Wright, director of the Davie County Health Department.

She said Monday three of the eight laboratory confirmed cases were reported Monday morning, and the number continues to rise.

Pertussis is spread through the air and is highly contagious. It mimics the common cold in the beginning, but after a week or two, a mild cough will turn into severe coughing that will come in spasms, Wright said. The person cannot stop coughing, may lose their breath, vomit after coughing or have a whooping sound when trying to breathe in at the end of the cough.

Symptoms can develop 21 days after close contact (three feet or more than 15 minutes face to face) with an infected person, so, Wright said, parents need to monitor students through the holidays and into the new year. That applies even if the student has had the Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis) because the vaccine has an efficacy range of 80 to 85 percent, and vaccine levels decrease with time, so routine boosters are recommended every 10 years, according to information Wright provided from the Immunization Action Coalition.

The information also says all adults should receive a single dose of Tdap as soon as feasible.

Even after the cough is gone, the disease can still be spread. Infants are especially at risk for greater complications, including death, but adults can have complications such as pneumonia or rib fractures if they contract the disease. Antibiotics are needed to treat pertussis and may be used in other family members or those who have been in close contact with an infected person. Guidelines say those infected should not attend school, work, childcare or visit public places until they have completed five days of an antibiotic treatment.

Superintendent Dr. Darrin Hartness said he would not characterize the cases as an “outbreak” or anything to cause panic, and said the school has taken additional measures, such as cleaning desks and doorknobs and reminding students to wash their hands, such as they would do with the flu. He said he heard people saying the illness was due to children not being immunized, but said all the students infected had received the vaccine.

More information about pertussis can be found at www.cdc.gov/pertussis or by calling the health department at 753-6750.