January 3, 2011

Health update: Pertussis (whooping cough) on the rise in Pennsylvania


  National Association of School Nurses

  PA Department of Health

  Center for Disease Control



Pertussis, also called “whooping cough,” is a highly contagious but treatable disease affecting the lungs and air passages. The infection is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

As cases continue to appear in schools and classrooms across Pennsylvania, it's important to learn about the disease and how to prevent it.

According to the PA Department of Health, pertussis begins as a mild illness like the common cold.

Sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever, and mild coughing progress to severe coughing. People with pertussis have episodes of rapid coughing followed by a high-pitched whoop as they take a deep breath.

Pertussis can be particularly serious for infants and young children. Adult cases often go undiagnosed because the symptoms are much milder than the symptoms in children.

It is important to note that the disease is very easy to prevent through a vaccine. While young children receive the vaccine, the effectiveness wanes after 5-10 years. Adolescents and adults can get a DTaP vaccine - that protects individuals from tetanus, pertussis, and other diseases.

Pertussis also can be prevented through good ‘cough etiquette,’ frequent hand washing, and sending students with persistent coughing to a certified school nurse.






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