Whooping cough canceled basketball games last week

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

Whooping cough has turned up in several west Michigan high school students, some of whom live in Allegan County.

Allegan County Health Department personal health services manager Lisa Letts said the department was tracking two confirmed cases of pertussis, a bacterial disease, last week.

According to the school, the students are among several who’ve contracted the illness who attended Holland Christian High School, leading a basketball opponent to cancel several basketball games last week.

Letts said this was the latest round with the disease within the borders of the county. For privacy reasons, the department could not release the names of the students or what area they lived in.

“There have been seven confirmed and three probable cases of pertussis documented in Allegan County between Jan. 1 and Dec. 13,” she said. “Pertussis can be treated or even prevented with antibiotics, if detected early or before the disease has started. If your child has been exposed, please contact your health care provider for protective treatment.”

Pertussis spreads through close contact, sneezing and coughing; it’s airborn, so it tends to spread among those in close proximity, such as at homes. Symptoms can take from seven to 10 days to start showing; in its early stage, pertussis can resemble a common cold—sneezing, runny nose, mild, dry cough and low-grade fever. The disease is most contagious at that time.

Letts said that after about one to two weeks, more serious “coughing spells” develop that can last for more than a minute and result in difficulty breathing. The disease gets its common name from the high pitched “whooping” children sometimes make after those coughing fits, catching their breath.

“If your child does develop any of the symptoms described above, keep him or her at home from school and contact your health care provider immediately. Please also inform the school of any illness,” Letts said.

“Fortunately, vaccinations against pertussis have made it a rare disease. The majority of children have been protected against it through their routine childhood immunizations. However, protection from the vaccine tends to fade over time,” she said.

She encouraged children older than 10 to consider obtaining a booster vaccination.

In the case of the Holland Christian students, the department advised that students exposed to those with the illness receive preventative rounds of antibiotics to prevent infection or reduce its severity.

For more information, contact The Communicable Disease Public Health Nurse at Allegan County Health Department at (269) 673-5411. More information is also available at www.cdc.gov/Features/Pertussis/

Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

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