Public health — Health officials continue to stress preventative measures to the community

Nearly four weeks after Newberg School District officials announced that a high school student had been diagnosed with pertussis, better known as whooping cough, the school announced Feb. 11 that a second case had been discovered at the high school.

Yamhill County Public Health nursing programs manager Lindsey Manfrin said the agency has investigated and found no evidence that the two cases are related.

“There are many contact points, but we do and are currently looking at kids who may have been exposed. Their families have been notified if we suspect they’ve been exposed so they can be more vigilant about noticing signs and symptoms.”

Manfrin said officials are especially vigilant about possible contact with small infants and pregnant women, because it is in those groups that pertussis can be life-threatening to the child, and that was also emphasized in a letter distributed to district parents, which extolled women to get the adult pertussis booster Tdap with every pregnancy.

In the letter, public health officer William Koenig also reiterated that families should stay home and consult with a health care provider if symptoms of pertussis arise and make sure parents and children are up to date with current vaccine recommendations.

Pertussis presents as cold-like symptoms followed in one to two weeks by a severe cough that can last for weeks to months. During coughing attacks, children may gag, gasp or strain to inhale, making the high- pitched whooping sound. This may be followed by vomiting or exhaustion. Fever is usually absent or minimal.

In addition to staying current with vaccines, preventative measures like frequently washing hands with soap and covering one’s coughs or sneezes are recommended.

It is still possible to contract pertussis, which is caused by a bacteria, if one has had all the necessary vaccines, but the risk of infection is much greater in those who are not up to date on their vaccines.

Manfrin said that the discovery of a second case does not constitute an outbreak and oftentimes the increased awareness that comes about as a result of a confirmed case spurs more people be on alert for symptoms and to get tested.

“That’s good and what we want, so it could be a result of that,” Manfrin said. “It may not be indicating anything other than that. That’s good that people are going in and getting tested and treated so they’re not contagious for a lengthy period of time.”

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