Letter from the School Nurse

This is a  reminder about the continued  cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in the State of Maine and nationally.  Most coughs are the result of asthma, seasonal allergies &/or the common cold virus however, Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the upper respiratory system characterized by an uncontrollable cough.  Pertussis is also known as “whooping cough” because of the “whooping” sound that is made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing.

Pertussis is transmitted from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes and tiny air-borne droplets, containing the bacteria, are released into the air.  Coughing can start 10-12 days after a person becomes infected.  The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination with DTaP; however, vaccinated children and adults can become infected with and transmit pertussis, but the disease is less likely to be severe.  Children and adults who are not fully vaccinated are more at risk for serious complications of the disease.

Limiting spread of infection is done through covering coughs, limiting exposure to someone’s cough, not sharing food &/or utensils and being up to date with immunizations.   You have to be with someone who is actively coughing to be exposed.  Anyone who is pregnant or immunocompromised,  share with your primary care providers any concerns you may have.

If your child has a severe cough which may include coughing to the point of gagging, vomiting,  or difficulty breathing, or a prolonged cough lasting 2 weeks or longer, please contact your health care provider.  

Confirmed cases will be treated with antibiotics and students may return to school after 5 days of treatment.

Remembering to cover your cough or sneeze and hand washing are excellent ways to limit the spread of infection.

Pertussis Fact Sheet and more information may be obtained through numerous websites including the National CDC Pertussis Homepage:  http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html

Thank you,

Eileen Spencer, RN