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Whooping Cough Case at Northport High School

A instance of Pertussis, a highly contagious respiratory illness, was discovered.

A case of Pertussis, also known as "whooping cough," a highly contagious respiratory illness, was discovered at Northport High School, the Suffolk County Department of Health announced Jan. 17.

This is the second case of Pertussis discovered at Northport High School this school year. Another student was diagnosed with the respiratory illness in November.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory illness that is spread through the air by cough from an infected individual. A person with Pertussis is infectious for 21 days from the start of the cough, or until he/she has been on 5 full days of appropriate antibiotic therapy, Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, director of public health said in a statement.

Vaccinations are the best defense against the illness and are still most effective in preventing it, Iftikhar said, however,children and adults may be susceptible and still develop Pertussis even if they are up-to-date with their vaccinations as immunity to Pertussis wanes over the years. Pertussis illness is particularly dangerous and can be fatal to infants who are not fully immunized. Pertussis in older children and adults may present with milder symptoms, particularly if previously immunized. 

Pertussis gets its nickname, 'whooping cough' for causing individuals to experience uncontrollable coughing which often makes it hard to breathe, resulting in a whooping sound while gasping for air.

Symptoms of the illness usually develop within 10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as 6 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are three stages of Pertussis:
  • Stage one: mild cough that lasts for one or two weeks.
  • Stage two: spasmodic coughing followed by long whooping sounds that can last for six weeks.
  • Stage three: coughing episodes may last for up to 100 days, however, the infection is no longer contagious.
Parents who believe their child may be infected should contact their doctor for early treatment with an appropriate antibiotic, Iftikar said.

Early treatment, with the appropriate antibiotic, for the symptomatic individual, his/her asymptomatic (not currently showing symptoms) family and close contacts, will eliminate disease transmission and may reduce disease severity.

If one's physician suspects a diagnosis of Pertussis, orders testing and prescribes antibiotics, that person should remain home until they have completed at least five days of their antibiotic therapy. 

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