A Houston school has closed early for the holidays due to a potential vaccine-preventable disease outbreak. St. Theresa Catholic School, near Memorial Park, has closed because several students have developed pertussis, better known as whooping cough.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the lungs and airways. The disease causes violent and uncontrollable coughing, making it hard to catch your breath. Pertussis can be deadly, especially in newborns. The bacteria spread through the air, from one person to another, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Pertussis symptoms typically appear 5 to 10 days after exposure, with a range of 4 to 21 days. After 1 to 2 weeks, the cough usually occurs in strong “coughing fits.” In young children, this is often followed by a whooping sound, as they try to catch their breath. The lack of air may cause a person to vomit, or turn blue in the face. In its early stages, pertussis appears as nothing more than the common cold and is not usually diagnosed until more severe symptoms appear.
Infants under 3 months of age are at greater risk of pertussis, because they’re too young to be protected by the vaccine. To help contain the spread of pertussis, all household members and close contacts should also receive antibiotics, even if they are not coughing. When possible, babies should be kept away from people with a cough.
The best way to prevent pertussis among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) is recommended for children 2 months through 6 years. Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is routinely given for ages 11 and up. It is strongly recommended that pregnant women vaccinate during the third trimester of each pregnancy. With the holidays fast approaching it is crucial to be vaccinated against this deadly disease.