BETHLEHEM — The Albany County Department of Health confirmed on Tuesday, June 11 that a second individual at Bethlehem Central High School has pertussis; the first case was confirmed last week.
In a mass-sent message from Superintendent Jody Monroe, she wrote that the two individuals “have received appropriate medical care and were excluded from school until no longer contagious. In both cases, people who may have had close contact with these individuals have been identified and are being contacted directly.” The message did not explicitly indicate what grade level each individual was in or even if the second individual was a student or faculty member.
While the two cases have been handled, Monroe urged parents to be informed of what pertussis is, moving forward.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines pertussis, also known as whooping cough, as “a highly contagious respiratory disease … caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.” It can affect any age group but it is more serious for babies who are not 12 months old yet. People with impaired immune systems or moderate-to-severe asthma are also at high risk.
An afflicted person would have 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. Pertussis typically starts with cold-like symptoms, like a fever and mild cough, but it worsens after a week or two. By that time, the person may experience many coughing fits, vomiting, breathing issues and exhaustion. The cough generally gets worse at night and cough medications may not remedy 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.