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Deschutes County sees most whooping cough cases in a decade

(Update: Adding info on 2019 cases)

Summit parents advised of recent exposure to pertussis

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Parents of students at Bend's Summit High School were sent a letter Friday warning of recent possible exposure to pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at the school, after 2019 saw the most cases in Deschutes County in at least a decade.

A student at Ridgeview High School in Redmond recently contracted pertussis, prompting a similar letter to parents and guardians. Other cases among those reported in the county (and to parents) last year included students at Redmond's Obsidian Middle School and Bend High School.

Deschutes County Health Services reported a total of 67 presumptive and confirmed pertussis cases in 2019, a rise from previous years, a representative said Saturday. They were primarily in school-aged children.

The 67 cases were the most in Deschutes County in at least the last decade, with only the 60 cases reported in 2014 close to that level, officials said. By contrast, only 4 cases were reported in 2018, two in 2017 and three in 2016. and 40 in 2015.

Out of the 67 presumptive and confirmed pertussis cases reported in 2019, 48 were fully vaccinated against pertussis. The other 19 cases were not up to date on their pertussis vaccines or had an unknown vaccine status, officials said.

“Tdap vaccination is still the best protection against pertussis,” said Jill Johnson, Deschutes County Health Services’ communicable disease supervisor. “If most people in our community are vaccinated, there is a lower chance that an outbreak will occur and expose vulnerable babies under age one, which is our biggest concern in public health.”

Friday's letter to Summit parents and guardians, from Bend-La Pine Schools Health Services Supervisor Tami Pike, advised them to take steps to prevent or reduce the risk of developing the illness.

If a child has a respiratory illness, the district advised parents to have their medical provider evaluate the student and let them know of the pertussis exposure.

It noted the symptoms of pertussis, which begans with a mild upper respiratory infection that resembles a common cold, such as sneezing, a running nose, mild cough and low-grade fever.

Usually within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe, including "episodes of numerous rapid coughs, followed by a crowing of high-pitched whooping sound, and is sometimes followed by vomiting."

A thick, clear mucuous may be discharged, Pike wrote, and the episodes may recur for one or two months, more frequently at night.

Any student or staff with similar symptoms should see their medical provider to rule out pertussis, she said.

State and county health officials said when pertussis is suspected and antibiotics are prescribed, the student may not attend school until they've completed at least five days of the prescribed medication, to ensure they are no longer contagious, Pike said.

The best prevention against pertussis is up-to-date Tdap immunizations, Pike said. But she added that "vaccines are not 100% effective and it is still possible to become ill with pertussis, however, illness tends to be less severe in those people who are vaccinated."

Those with questions were urged to contact Deschutes County Health Services' Communicable Disease Line at 541-322-7418.

Bend / Central Oregon / Top Stories

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