BEND, Ore. – Parents of Summit High School students were notified Monday of a recent confirmed case of pertussis, or whooping cough, with a possible exposure at the Bend school.
In a letter sent to parents, Bend-La Pine Schools Lead Nurse Tami Pike said Deschutes County Public Health notified the district of the possible recent exposure on Monday.
Parents were urged to contact their medical provider for an evaluation if their child has a respiratory illness and let them know of the case at the school.
The symptoms begin as a mild respiratory infection resembling a common cold, but within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and involves several rapid coughs and a high-pitched whooping sound, sometimes followed by vomiting.
Any child or staff member with similar symptoms is advised to seek a doctor’s evaluation to rule out pertussis. If it is suspected and antibiotics are prescribed, they cannot attend school until they’ve completed at least five days of the prescribed medication, to ensure they are no longer contagious.
Public health officials said the best prevention is updated immunizations for Tdap. Pike noted that while vaccines are not 100 percent effective and you can still become ill, it tends to be less severe in those who are vaccinated.
Jill Johnson, a public health nurse with the county, confirmed that the case involved a student who is on medication and away from school at present, and that the student’s close contacts have been notified.
Johnson said pertussis is not as contagious as measles and the number of cases in the county ebb and flow each year in a “kind of cyclic” fashion The number of recent cases in Deschutes County peaked at 60 in 2014, dropping to 40 the following year, three in 2016, two in 2017 and rising to 13 recorded cases in 2018.
An outbreak of multiple cases often brings more widespread public notice, but Johnson said there was only the one case at present and only four cases so far this year.
But she said it’s important to educate parents, as the illness can be especially difficult for infants, half of whom have to be hospitalized if they contract pertussis. She said an older sibling sometimes can bring it home and unknowingly infect a younger one.
A year ago, four Redmond School District students were diagnosed with pertussis, also prompting letters to parents.
More information: https://www.deschutes.org/health/page/disease-spotlight and https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html.