This Time of Year

This Time of Year
Posted on 01/08/2019
Whooping cough written across a whiteboard.

This is the time of year that we tend to see an increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough). So far this year there have been numerous suspected, probable and confirmed cases reported in Thurston County.  The Thurston County Health Department has notified us that Pertussis was identified in two Rochester High School students over break. Both have been treated and are no longer contagious. While typically a relatively mild illness for older children and adults, pertussis can be life threatening for infants and young children, and dangerous for pregnant women. This is a reminder to keep your child home if they are ill. If they are coughing, please have them evaluated by their health care provider.

Pertussis is spread through the air and by secretions of the nose and throat in the same manner as a cold. The illness starts with mild cold symptoms, followed in 4 to 5 days by a cough. The cough can become severe, causing children to vomit or have difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing causes the characteristic “whoop” sound in children with severe illness. Most children are immunized during infancy and pre-school years and are protected while they are the most vulnerable. Immunity wanes over time leaving older children and adults susceptible to the illness.

Pertussis containing vaccine is available for older children and adults. The recommendation is that all individuals 11 years of age and older receive one dose of Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine. Vaccine for children is available from their health care provider and most pharmacies will vaccinate older children and adults.

The four most important ways to prevent the spread of pertussis as well as many other illnesses are:

  1. Frequent hand washing
  2. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing
  3. You and your child stay home when ill
  4. Ensure that immunizations are current

If you or your child has a severe cough, or one that lasts longer than a week, please see your family health care provider for an evaluation. If you have questions please contact your school nurse or Marianne Remy (360-867-2524) or Beth Cumberland (360-867-2536) at the Thurston County Health Department.

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