Health News

Whooping Cough Confirmed at Pueblo West High School

PUEBLO, COLO. - Today, Public Health Officials announced a confirmed pertussis case along with other suspected pertussis cases and many close contacts at Pueblo West High School and in the community. The Pueblo City County-Health Department investigated close contacts including multiple students, staff members and family members with pertussis (whooping cough) symptoms, specifically a severe cough, and made appropriate recommendations for testing and treatment.

Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, public health director, would like to thank Pueblo West High School, School District 70, and Pueblo's medical community for their cooperation and assistance helping to halt the outbreak.

"Students, staff members and family members at Pueblo West High School are being monitored for pertussis (whooping cough)," stated Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, public health director at the Pueblo City-County Health Department. "Pertussis is a highly contagious disease; treatment and vaccination is important in preventing spread to others who are likely to get the illness," adds Dr. Nevin-Woods.  Adolescents and adults with a severe cough characterized by coughing fits and/or vomiting and/or a whoop should be checked by their doctor and tested for pertussis and then treated.    

"Just in their daily activities, close contact can occur which exposes many other people to the pertussis illness, especially individuals who are unvaccinated or too young to get vaccinated," stated Nevin-Woods.  "Examples of close contact includes: riding in a car or bus, or exposure at home," Nevin-Woods explained.                                 

Whooping cough disease starts like the common cold, with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe a mild cough or fever. But after 1–2 weeks, severe coughing can begin.

"Half of teens who get pertussis cough for more than 10 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," explained Dr. Nevin-Woods.

"Vaccinations, including Tdap, are very important preventing illness, call your doctor to make sure you are up-to-date," explained Dr. Nevin-Woods.Tdap is one of the vaccines required by Colorado Law for children/teens from 6th to 12th grade. Tdap is recommended to be given at ages 11-12 and later if missed, Nevin-Woods elaborated.

Pertussis is a serious disease in unvaccinated babies and at-risk children and adults, such as those with asthma, the elderly, and in infants less than 6 months. Pertussis in young infants can be very serious with pneumonia, respiratory distress and even death. In serious cases, the pertussis disease develops into coughing episodes so close together an individual cannot get adequate air into their lungs. Individuals with severe pertussis often vomit after coughing and it can be hard for babies to eat, drink or breathe. The cough ends with a whooping sound.

Adults and caretakers should know they can help to protect children and infants against the disease by getting vaccinated themselves. Research shows half of the babies infected with pertussis are exposed by their parents; while 90% of unvaccinated children living with someone who has the disease can become infected. Students and adults with pertussis cannot return to school or work until they have received adequate treatment.

Vaccinations are available through doctor's offices, pharmacies, and through the Health Department (for uninsured). Tdap vaccine can be given at the same time as the flu vaccine. Call first to schedule an appointment 719-583-4380.

Nevin-Woods called on all healthcare workers in Pueblo to assist the local health department in controlling the spread of this disease by also getting their Tdap vaccine.

Timely diagnosis and prompt reporting of suspect cases to the Health Department is very important because those with pertussis and their close contacts need to be treated with an appropriate antibiotic within a specific time frame.

Questions about pertussis can be answered locally by the Disease Prevention and Emergency Preparedness Division at the Pueblo City-County Health Department 719-583-9901.

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