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News / Health / Clark County Health

Whooping cough strikes at Mountain View High School

Health officials say 6 cases have been reported since November

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter
Published: December 11, 2017, 5:52pm

Half a dozen students at Mountain View High School have contracted whooping cough since last month.

Clark County Public Health has received reports of six cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, at the east Vancouver school since November. In response, school officials sent a letter home with students, alerting parents to the cases and the signs and symptoms of the disease.

“Pertussis is just circulating in the community,” said Monica Czapla, infectious disease program manager at Clark County Public Health. “Because of the long incubation period and the long contagious period, it can be circulating for a while.”

Whooping cough is an illness spread through respiratory secretions from coughing and sneezing. For the first few weeks, people with whooping cough can be contagious but only have seemingly harmless symptoms similar to those of a cold, such as runny nose, low-grade fever and mild cough.

As the disease progresses, people with whooping cough may experience coughing fits, followed by a “whooping” noise, vomiting and difficulty catching their breath. The coughing fits can continue for 10 weeks or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For infants, the illness is particularly dangerous — and potentially deadly. Babies who get whooping cough typically catch it from their older siblings or parents, according to health officials.

The state recommends children receive five doses of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccine at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years. Adolescents 11 to 18 and adults 19 to 64 should receive a tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis booster, commonly known as Tdap. Pregnant women should also receive a Tdap booster during every pregnancy.

“These are just great reminders to make sure you and your kids are up to date on your vaccines, because these vaccine-preventable diseases are circulating in our community,” Czapla said.

During the 2016-17 school year, just 41 percent of Mountain View students were up to date on all of their immunizations. But of the six students recently diagnosed with whooping cough, five were up to date on their immunizations. Health officials suspect pertussis vaccine protection may wane by the tween and teen years.

While the vaccine is not 100 percent in preventing illness, the cases are less severe among those who are immunized, Czapla said.

“It is, without a doubt, the best means of protecting yourself from this disease,” she said.

So far this year, Clark County has recorded 79 cases of whooping cough. During the same time period last year, health officials reported 62 cases. Both years are far below the total in 2015 — 365 cases — when Clark County last had a whooping cough outbreak.

During a statewide whooping cough outbreak in 2012, Clark County recorded 355 cases.

Columbian Health Reporter