The Douglas Public Health Network has confirmed two cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at North Douglas Elementary School.
According to a press release from Douglas ESD, the first case was confirmed in the beginning of May and the other on Thursday, leading public health officials to declare an outbreak of what is considered a highly contagious and serious illness.
Whooping cough is a bacterial respiratory disease. According to the website for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first symptoms mimic the common cold, such as a runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and cough. Because these symptoms are so generic, it often goes undiagnosed until symptoms become more severe.
Oregon Health Authority lists infants and young children as being the most at risk. At this age, infection can often lead to complications requiring hospitalization. Older adolescents and adults can easily infect others in their household.
Vaccines are widely available to prevent the spread. Oregon Administrative Rule requires all students who do not meet immunization requirements to be excluded from attending school. Fourteen North Douglas students are subject to exclusion, because they either had no immunizations, not enough immunizations or inadequate records.
If any of these students receive the vaccine, they would normally be allowed to return to school within 21 days. However, this school year ends on June 14. The district will not penalize excluded students who are unable to finish state testing or participate in final projects or exams.
“We fully support parents’ legal rights and choice to determine whether their children receive immunizations,” said North Douglas School District Superintendent John Lahley via press release. “However, we must obey the law that requires schools to exclude students when cases of pertussis are confirmed within our district. Local health officials determine the threshold for this process, and we must follow their directives.”
There is no cure for the disease, though early treatment with antibiotics can improve symptoms and make the disease less contagious. According to an interview earlier this month with Douglas Public Health Network Director Bob Dannenhoffer, cough could last three months.
“It’s a nasty, nasty disease, but it’s almost totally preventable,” Dannenhoffer said. “The vaccine is pretty good and we’re recommending that everyone get updated on their vaccine.”
More information can be found by asking your health care provider, contacting Douglas Public Health Network at 541-440-3571 or visiting the Oregon Immunization Program’s website at www.healthoregon.org/imm. Vaccinations are readily available at most drug stores and health clinics.