Pertussis, also called whooping cough, continues to spread throughout Clackamas County with more than 60 cases since July, more cases this year than over the past five years.
Most of these 2019 cases occurred in November and December among school-aged children.
Pertussis spreads easily through coughs and sneezes and can affect groups of people at a time. Pertussis symptoms usually begin like a common cold accompanied by a mild cough and fever. Symptoms usually develop within five to 10 days after exposure, and sometimes pertussis symptoms do not develop for as long as three weeks. So far, 19 schools in the county had students attend classes while contagious.
The county’s school communities impacted by pertussis include eight pre- and elementary schools, two middle schools, and nine high schools with the highest number of confirmed cases located in West Linn, Molalla and Lake Oswego area high schools.
“All families with school-aged children should ensure that everyone in the house is up to date on the vaccine,” said Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas County Health Officer, who explained that more than half of the pertussis cases affecting those aged 10-19 years were fully vaccinated and still got the disease.
Most of the vaccinated students who were affected did not have severe disease, which could be partly attributed to their being immunized as young children. Boosters are highly recommended for 11 and 12 year old children, and pregnant women during all pregnancies to help protect infants who are at the highest risk of severe disease.
“While the vaccination works, immunity wanes over time, so if you have symptoms, consider pertussis,” Dr. Present said.
According to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, those who receive the pertussis vaccine prior to their exposure to the disease will lessen the number of days and severity of their coughing, whooping, vomiting and exhaustion if infected. The disease is most severe in unvaccinated babies and can be life threatening.
“During winter break when kids are at home is a great time to schedule doctor visits to make sure everyone’s shots and immunization records are current,” she said in reference to the quickly approaching school exclusion date on Feb. 19, 2020.
Dr. Present recommends that anyone who is experiencing symptoms should stay home and see a doctor for treatment in order to help stop the spread of pertussis in our community.