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Protect Your Family Against Pertussis 

(Updated) Lane County Public Health is investigating numerous local cases of pertussis (whooping cough), including cases at several schools. Pertussis is highly contagious and is a serious illness, especially for infants.

At Sheldon High School, Monroe Middle School, and other schools where public health officials have identified multiple cases and declared an outbreak, or there is a known exposure, public health officials have excluded under-immunized students from attending school.

Lane County Public Health recommends:

  1. If your child has symptoms of pertussis (described below), please keep them home from school and consult with their health care provider. Tell your provider if your child may have been exposed to pertussis.
  2. Ensure your child is up to date on his or her immunizations. Contact your health care provider or school to review vaccine records. 
  3. Get an immunization booster shot if you have close contact with any infants (important for grandparents and other family members) or if it’s been 10 years since your last booster.
  4. If you are pregnant, call your health care provider to discuss prevention options during pregnancy.

What this means for your student: The great majority of 4J students have all required immunizations, but some students have a medical or non-medical exemption from some or all immunizations. If a pertussis outbreak occurs at a school, a student who is under-immunized and at greater risk for pertussis may be excluded from attending school for 21 days after the last potential exposure.

What is pertussis? Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a contagious bacterial disease of the respiratory tract. Pertussis can occur at any age. Infants and young children are at higher risk of serious or life-threatening consequences.

Symptoms: Symptoms of pertussis typically begin with cold-like symptoms. After a week or two, the “cold” may go away, and the cough may become more pronounced with coughing spells that can take your breath away or trigger a gag reflex or vomiting. Sometimes a “whoop” or “bark” is heard as the person gasps for air. The coughing fits can keep coming for weeks to months. Fever is usually absent or minimal.

What to do if sick: If your child has symptoms of pertussis, keep them at home, call the school, and consult your healthcare provider (or the school nurse or school-based health center). Similarly, if you have symptoms of pertussis, public health officials urge you to stay home from work or school and public places, and seek medical attention. If your healthcare provider suspects it is pertussis they will notify the public health department.

Prevention: To prevent the spread of this illness, immunization is the most effective measure, followed by hand hygiene (frequent handwashing with soap and water) and good respiratory etiquette (covering your coughs and sneezes). Pertussis is spread through direct contact with nose and throat mucus and airborne droplets. Un-immunized and under-immunized individuals are at the most risk of contracting and spreading the disease.

Immunization: Public health officials recommend that parents review their children’s immunization records to see if they are current on all vaccinations, including pertussis (DTaP and Tdap) and get them up to date. Public health officials also recommend that adults should get a booster shot every 10 years, particularly if they may have contact with infants or other un-immunized individuals, and that pregnant women receive pertussis vaccine at designated times.

Where to get immunized: 

Questions? If you have any additional questions about pertussis (whooping cough) or possible exposure, please call your healthcare provider or the public health department at 541-682-4041.

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