BETHLEHEM — Bethlehem Central Superintendent Jody Monroe and the Albany County Department of Health confirmed today that there has been a case of pertussis at the high school.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pertussis can also be known as whooping cough; it “is a highly contagious respiratory disease … caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.” It can affect any age group but it is especially serious, sometimes deadly, for babies who are not a year old yet. Other types of people who are high risk include those with impaired immune systems or moderate-to-severe asthma.
A person afflicted with it would undergo uncontrollable, violent coughing which makes breathing more difficult; the person would often also have to breathe deeply afterwards, which causes a so-called “whooping” sound.
Regarding Bethlehem, Monroe wrote in a mass email that the individual with pertussis, whose identity and exact timeline of contracting pertussis were not disclosed, has “received appropriate medical care and was excluded from school until no longer contagious.” While she added that anyone who possibly had contact with the person are “being identified and will be contacted directly,” she encouraged parents and students to be aware of what pertussis is.
Pertussis typically starts with cold-like symptoms, like a fever and mild cough, but it worsens after a week or two. By then, the person could experience many coughing fits, vomiting, breathing issues and exhaustion. The cough generally worsens at night and cough medications may not solve it.
Such coughing fits could last for many weeks but people who had been vaccinated prior to contracting pertussis may experience milder symptoms and not have the “whoop” sound when breathing. However, people who had been vaccinated during their childhood could still contract pertussis “because protection decreases over time,” according to Monroe.
Monroe also wrote that if a child starts having a persistent cough for over a week, the child should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. If pertussis is discovered, antibiotics can help treat the child to make them feel better faster as well as decrease the likelihood of spreading it to other people. According to Monroe, a child is not allowed to resume any school, work or extracurricular activities unless five days of antibiotic treatment have passed or the healthcare provider approves.
For more information about pertussis, visit https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2171. For any other queries, the public is encouraged to contact their respective healthcare provider, the school nurse or the Albany County Department of Health at 518-447-4640.