Whooping Cough Confirmed in Hillsborough

A second-grader at The Expedition School in Hillsborough has tested positive for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

“We have one confirmed case of pertussis and one suspect case of pertussis in Orange County. They are two children that are both of the same family,” says Stacy Shelp, spokesperson for the Orange County Health Department.

The Expedition School is a year-round charter school serving children from kindergarten through 6th grade.

Patricia Brummit is the school’s business director. She says administrators received word of the diagnosis Monday afternoon. Parents have been notified, and some children who came in close contact with the student are taking preventive antibiotics to limit the spread of the disease.

“We have sent out all the information from the Orange County Health Department and then parents have made their own decisions about taking their children to the doctor,” says Brummit. “We have sent home some children who are showing symptoms and coughing for a while, just to be cautious.”

Shelp says pertussis is highly contagious.

“It is spread through coughing and sneezing. The good thing is it can be prevented through vaccination, so we do recommend that children receive the DTaP, it is actually one of the required vaccinations for school unless you have either a religious or medical exemption from that.”

Symptoms include runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, fever and a cough that can worsen until patients are left gasping for air. Shelp notes it can be especially serious for infants and young children.

“They are a lot more susceptible to this and often times they either end up hospitalized or it can be fatal, so we want to make sure people who are around newborns, infants or those who are immune-compromised have received their vaccination.”

While Orange County has high rate of school-aged children who are fully vaccinated, Shelp says our area also has one of the highest exemption rates in the state.

For more on whooping cough, click here.


Chatham Co. Health Dept Reports Whooping Cough On The Rise

Chatham County officials say they have seen a recent uptick in cases of whooping cough among adolescents and younger children.

Two students at Northwood High School were diagnosed with the disease in mid-October. Health Department workers and the Chatham County School system are trying to identify other students who may have been exposed.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is easily spread by coughing or sneezing. It causes a severe cough that can last for weeks or months. It’s especially dangerous for infants and those with weakened immune systems.

Spread of the disease is easily prevented by vaccination. If you need a booster shot, you can contact the Chatham County Health Department or the Orange County Health Department.


Young Children At High Risk Of Whooping Cough

Photo by Micah Taylor

ORANGE COUNTY – Counties west of the Triangle were hit hard by pertussis, or whooping cough, just before the start of the school year, and local officials are taking steps to keep your children safe.

“Children younger than a year old, according to the statistics, about half of those children will end up in the hospital,” Orange County Community Health Services Supervisor, Judy Butler with statistics regarding those who catch whooping cough. “Out of those that end up in the hospital, one to two percent will die.”

She says it can be severe for others as well, but the biggest concern is for babies, especially those younger than two month because they are unable to receive the vaccine.

Last week, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services approved free whooping cough vaccines in the three affected counties: Davidson, Forsyth, and Rockingham. In mid-August, more than 325 cases were reported across the three counties.

Butler says that hasn’t changed the process in which vaccines are given in Orange County.

“If a child is 18 or younger, they may qualify for free vaccines,” Butler says. “There’s a list of qualifications with one of those being children who don’t have insurance, then the vaccine is free. But for adults, unless they are pregnant, there is a charge for the vaccine.”

You can consult your doctor or the Orange County Health Department for more information on eligibility.

Butler says the Orange County Health Department offers and promotes DTaP and Tdap vaccinations year round.

“We technically give more right now because of the requirement for kindergarten entry, and it’s a requirement for sixth grade entry,” Butler says. “So we actually give more doses this time of year. But, we really push it all year.”

Last year there were 23 cases of whooping cough in Orange County. It’s not as simple as just treating the confirmed cases. Butler says 367 people who came in contact with those 23 affected had to be contacted and checked.

Butler says whooping cough can be hard to detect because it starts as a cold.

“…which is a pain, because we can’t assume everyone with a cold has pertussis,” Butler says. “But when it develops into a cough that persists for two weeks or longer or becomes severe—especially in younger children, they may have what’s called fits of coughing where they cough, cough, cough, cough, but then finally breathe in. Sometimes with that inspiration there is almost a whooping sound.”

Statewide, officials are urging people to get vaccinated, even though there may not be reports in your county.

For more information on whooping cough, click here.

For more information on the Orange County Health Department, click here.