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Student diagnosed with whooping cough at NHS


Public health — Teen-age pupil at the high school was kept out of school following diagnosis and is being treated with antibiotics

Newberg Public Schools officials announced Jan. 16 that a Newberg High School student had been diagnosed with pertussis, or Whooping Cough, and was held out of school for treatment.

The student began the standard five-day regimen of antibiotics and is expected to make a full recovery, according to a release from the school district.

School officials worked closely with Yamhill County Public Health officials to notify staff, students and parents and provide them with information about the highly contagious respiratory infection, which is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing.

Yamhill County Public Health nursing programs manager Lindsey Manfrin said that no other students have been excluded from school, but the public health officials were working to identify any students that may be at risk. Those at risk are generally students who have not been vaccinated or are “medically fragile” and were possibly exposed to the affected student, according to Manfrin.

“It’s not uncommon to have a pertussis case pop up here and there, and they don’t amount to much, fortunately,” Manfrin said. “There have been times, last year we did see some pockets of very small outbreaks. We just had to do our work as the communicable disease investigators and do what we could to prevent the spread.”

Middle school students in Oregon are required to receive the Tdap (Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis) vaccine, but Stewart noted that the school does have students whose parents, for personal reasons, have chosen not to vaccinate their children.

While not 100 percent effective at inoculating patients, Manfrin said the vaccine basically acts like a pertussis booster following the regimen of vaccines given to small children.

“What we tend to see is the kids that do get pertussis, when they’ve been vaccinated they tend to be less sick and to be sick for fewer number of days,” Manfrin said. “So there is still some protection there, even though they may have been unlucky to be one of the people that did get it after being vaccinated. It tends to be less severe.”

Symptoms, which first present as a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough, usually begin seven to 10 days after exposure, but onset can take as long as six weeks.

Coughing gradually becomes more severe and after a week or two, the second stage of the illness begins, characterized by coughing spasms that end with long gasps or “whoops,” sometimes resulting in vomiting, as the patient attempts to breathe. This stage can last for up to 10 weeks, but after undergoing the five-day course of antibiotics, Manfrin said patients are considered to be non-communicable.

“For the most part, there’s great community cooperation in wanting to protect people that might be vulnerable and people’s willingness to answer the nurse’s questions about being around the people we’re most concerned about,” Manfrin said. “The people that we’re really concerned about getting it are infants under one and pregnant women. Infants under one are the ones that tend to get really sick.”