EL PASO, Texas - A student at Chapin High School has been diagnosed with pertussis (also called "whooping cough"), confirmed El Paso Independent School District officials Thursday.
EPISD along with the El Paso Department of Public Health sent parents a letter notifying them that their child may have been exposed to someone with pertussis.
An EPISD spokesman said parents were also called and emailed about the diagnosis. The letter stresses the importance of making sure students' vaccine records are up to date. The letter states that the note is not intended to alarm parents, but to have them monitor their children for any symptoms.
Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes a severe cough, according to the El Paso Department of Health. Symptoms appear 6 to 21 (average 7-10) days after exposure to an infected person.
The Department of Health recommends parents contact their children's physician and review vaccine records. Also, if your child develops any cold symptoms, call your physician immediately.
If a child is found to have pertussis, the child will be banned from attending school for five days until the antibiotic treatment has been completed, or for three weeks from the onset of the cough.
Report all cases to El Paso Department of Public Health by calling 915-212-6520.
- Pertussis may start with cold symptoms or simply a dry cough followed by episodes of sever coughing.
- Fever is absent or mild.
- Gagging or vomiting may occur after severe coughing spells. Cough may be worse at night.
- The person may look and feel healthy between coughing episodes.
- Immunized school children, adolescents, and adults often have milder illness than younger children.
- Infants with pertussis may not develop a severe cough. They may only have a mild cough, decreased feeding, and may have difficulty breathing or turn bluish.
HOW IT IS SPREAD
- Pertussis is spread through droplets from the mouth and nose when a person with pertussis coughs, sneezes, or talks. If left untreated, persons with pertussis can spread the infection for several weeks.
- Adults and older children with unrecognized pertussis often spread the infection to others, including young children.
- Anyone who is exposed to the bacteria can get pertussis. Pertussis vaccine prevents severe disease in young infants, but even a vaccinated person can get pertussis infection.
- Pertussis occurs in older children and adults because protection from the vaccine (DTP or DTaP) lasts only 5-10 years after the last dose.
PERSONS AT HIGH RISK
- Infants less than one year old are considered at high risk for complications of pertussis, including hospitalization, pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, or death.
- Treatment is most effective early in the disease. A health care provider must prescribe an antibiotic active against pertussis.
- Persons treated with antibiotics are no longer contagious after the first 5 days of appropriate antibiotic treatment have been completed.
- Pertussis vaccine is included in DTaP and the new Tdap vaccine for adolescents and adults (available since 2006).
- Before age 7, children should get 5 doses of the DTaP vaccine.
- DTaP doses are usually given at 2, 4, 6 and 15-18 months of age and 4-6 years of age.
- The 4th DTaP dose may be given as early as 12 months of age.
- Tdap vaccine should be given as a single booster dose to 11-64 year old individuals.
- Pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy to provide protective antibodies (proteins produced by the body to fight off disease) to your baby before birth. The best time to get the vaccine is during your 27th through 36th week of pregnancy.
- Families of infants should make sure that all family members and caregivers are immunized against pertussis to protect yourself and the baby.
- Persons with cough illnesses should avoid contact with infants and expectant mothers, including visiting or working in labor, delivery, and nursery areas of hospitals and in child care settings.
- If you live or have close contact with someone who has pertussis, you should take antibiotics to prevent pertussis - contact your health care provider.