SYLACAUGA, Ala. – The highly contagious whooping cough has been discovered in counties close to Sylacauga and the surrounding areas, and with students returning to school on Tuesday some parents may be worried.
Also known as pertussis, whooping cough symptoms include severe, violent coughing episodes known as “fits,” runny nose and low grade fever. It is highly contagious and most harmful to infants according to Sylacauga City Schools lead nurse Tracy Abernathy. After a week or two of illness, pertussis progresses to violent coughing, making it difficult for those infected to breathe. After fits of many coughs, people with the illness often need to take deep breaths which result in a “whooping” sound.
Currently, Alabama Department of Public Health has identified at least nine children with positive pertussis laboratory results in Shelby and Jefferson counties and 22 people with pertussis-like illness (PLI) linked to people who tested positive.
Sylacauga City Schools Lead Nurse Tracy Abernathy said all students of Sylacauga City Schools are required by Alabama law to have an updated immunization record before entering school which includes a vaccine for Whooping Cough.
“Patients should be aware that pertussis is a serious disease that can affect people of all ages. It can even be deadly for babies less than a year old. That is why it is especially important for everyone to be up to date on their pertussis vaccine with DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) or Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), which is required for school entry,” said Dr. Burnestine Taylor, Medical Director for Disease Control and Prevention, ADPH. Approximately half of the ill people are not up to date with all recommended vaccines. Some families have been identified as not vaccinating their children at all.
Sylacauga City Schools head nurse Tracy Abernathy said pertussis is treatable with medication but more importantly, preventable with those immunization.
“We are fortunate to have a school nurse on every campus in our system,” Abernathy said. “If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s immunization record, please contact your child’s school nurse or pediatrician.”
“As of today, there are not any diagnosis of whooping cough in Sylacauga City Schools,” said Abernathy. The school system would follow instruction provided by the health department if there was a case of whooping cough.
Also, if a case of whooping cough were to appear, parents of student who are medically and religiously exempt from receiving immunizations would be notified of possible exposure and excluded from school during the period of incubation, 5-21 days after possible exposure.