Two cases of pertussis confirmed at Central schools

INDEPENDENCE — Two students at Central schools have been confirmed with pertussis, or whooping cough.

The students attend Talmadge Middle School and Central High School, Superintendent Jennifer Kubista said.

She nor Wendy Zieker, from Polk County Public Health, could not disclose whether or not the students were from the same family.

Zieker said the disease is serious and can be deadly, especially in young infants. Complications from the disease include pneumonia, middle ear infection, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, fainting, dehydration, seizures, altered brain function, brief periods when breathing stops, and death.

“Before the whooping cough vaccines were recommended for all infants, about 8,000 people in the United States died each year from whooping cough,” she said. “Today, because of the vaccine, this number has dropped to fewer than 20 per year.”

Pertussis has never been eradicated, Zieker said, but vaccinations have kept the disease at lower numbers. In 1934, there were more than 265,000 infections in the United States, she said. By 1959, that number was down to 40,000. In 1976, 1,010 infections were counted in the U.S. But cases are increasing now.

Zieker said a number of things can be contributing to the increase of whooping cough seen over the last 40 years: Doctors and nurses are more aware of whooping cough and recognize it more often; testing has improved; and protection from whooping cough vaccines is not long-lasting.

Because of the nature of the vaccine, and because having the disease does not confer lifelong immunity, Zieker recommends everyone get a booster, particularly people who live with or are frequent visitors to children, such as grandparents and relatives, or those who are child care providers.

The symptoms of the disease usually have two phases, according to a press release on Central’s website:

The first stage begins like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing and sometimes a low-grade fever. The second stage includes uncontrolled coughing spells.

“It tends to start out like a cold,” Kubista said. “When the issue starts is when it becomes that deep cough.”

Kubista said the district is asking parents to be vigilant in keeping their children home when they are sick and following up with a health care provider if there’s concern about whooping cough.

For more information about pertussis: cdc.gov.

For information about health care, if you do not have a health care provider: Central Health and Wellness Center, 503-838-0045.

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