Whooping cough: 2nd outbreak in Chester County

Whopping cough has been on the rise in recent years. Now, for the second time in a week, there’s an outbreak in a Chester County school, Hillsdale Elementary in West Chester has 2 confirmed cases. Both students are expected to be OK, however, 4 other students who were not vaccinated will have to get shots, or stay out of schools for a 21-day incubation period. Last week, Great Valley High School said it had 2 students with whooping cough. Last month, at least 8 students in Quakertown, Bucks County were diagnosed. In December, Hunterdon County, New Jersey reported 7 cases. Below is more information on the Disease and how look/treat it…

What is pertussis?
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a contagious disease involving the lungs and airways. It is caused by a bacterium, Bordetella pertussis, that is found in the nose, mouth, and throat of an infected person. More than 100 cases are reported each year in Pennsylvania, mostly in children. Other cases of pertussis occur but are not diagnosed, especially in adults.

How soon do symptoms start?
Symptoms usually start 5 to 10 days after exposure to another person with the disease, but may take as long as 20 days to start.

What are the symptoms of pertussis?
Pertussis begins as a mild illness like the common cold. Sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever, and mild coughing progress to severe coughing. Some persons have episodes of rapid coughing followed by a high-pitched whoop as they take a deep breath. However, not everyone with pertussis has a whoop, especially very young infants. Severe cough may continue for many weeks despite proper treatment. Symptoms may be milder in older children and adults. However, pertussis can be a serious disease, especially in infants and young children. Complications can include pneumonia, dehydration, seizures, encephalopathy (a disorder of the brain), and death.

How is pertussis treated?
Antibiotics such as erythromycin may be useful early in the disease. Antibiotics are particularly helpful in reducing spread of the disease to other persons. However, once severe symptoms begin, antibiotics may not have any effect on symptoms.

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