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Third instance of whooping cough at FHS this year reported

A person diagnosed with probable pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, attends Ferndale High School (FHS), according to a notice posted to the Ferndale School District website.

Two prior confirmed cases were reported separately on March 27th and May 8th. Today, the Ferndale School District was notified by the Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) of a probable case involving someone who attends Ferndale High School.

Today, the district posted a letter received from the WCHD on their website with the news.

The district said they and WCHD are working together to notify families and individuals who may have had exposure to the individual.

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.

Whatcom County is experiencing far more cases of pertussis this year compared with other counties in Washington. The Washington State Department of Health reported 113 cases statewide during 2017 as of May 6th (compared with 176 during the same time in 2016). 18 of those cases were reported in Whatcom County. At 8.5 per 100,000 people, Whatcom County currently has the highest incidence of confirmed pertussis cases during 2017 in the state. King County, with 10-times more population, has one fewer cases than Whatcom. The statewide incidence rate is 1.6 per 100,000.

The CDC says the best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated. WCHD provided the following advice in their letter to the district,

• Not everyone who has a cough has pertussis. There are many other illnesses that can cause a cough.
• Pertussis requires close contact with an infected person in order to spread.
• Pertussis can cause severe illness in infants, and usually milder disease in older children, adolescents, and adults.
• People exposed to pertussis cannot pass it on to others unless they become sick themselves.
If your child becomes sick with a runny nose or a cough illness, you should:
• Keep your child at home and avoid close contact with others. It is especially important not to go to any childcare or attend settings where there are other small children or infants.
• Remind your child to cover his/her mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
• Contact your child’s health care provider. If you do not have a regular health care provider, go to a hospital emergency room or urgent care clinic.
• Tell your child’s health care provider about this letter or take it with you.
• If your child or someone in your household is in a high-risk category, be sure to tell the doctor. Pertussis testing should be considered. The high-risk categories are:
• Infants under 1 year of age
• Pregnant women in the last 3 months of pregnancy
• Health care workers with face-to-face patient contact
• Persons living or working with infants or pregnant women
What everyone should do, even if your child isn’t sick
• Be sure your children are up-to-date with pertussis vaccinations.
• There is also a pertussis vaccine recommended for older children and adults.
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
• If you have a baby, keep the baby away from people that are sick.

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For more information, call your usual health care provider.

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