Academy Reports Case Of Whooping Cough – Transylvania County, NC


Last updated 3/4/2020 at 2:57pm

Transylvania Public Health (TPC) has confirmed one case of whooping cough at Brevard Academy.

Brevard Academy Director Ted Duncan sent out a letter alerting parents to the case on Sunday, and children who were identified as having close contact with the diagnosed student were notified in a separate letter.

“We are following recommendations from the Transylvania County Health Department in terms of extra custodial care, cleaning and disinfecting,” Duncan said. “We had all of our staff members and teachers remind students about the importance of washing hands and we’ve communicated that information to parents as well.”

Transylvania Public Health public information officer Tara Rybka said if parents haven’t received a letter, their child did not have the risk of exposure, but it’s important for them to be aware of the situation.

“We’re really advising parents that if they have a child with a persistent cough, they need to stay out of school and sports until they’ve been checked out by a doctor,” Rybka said.

Duncan said Brevard Academy is advising parents to speak to their pediatrician or the health department if they have questions or concerns about what they need to do.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease known for uncontrollable, violent coughing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had pertussis cases in Transylvania County, and, again, the biggest concern is always how is it spreading,” Rybka said. “Those who have not been vaccinated are the most vulnerable.”

Rybka said of those unvaccinated people, babies and people who cannot receive vaccinations because of an existing health condition are the ones public health officials are most worried about.

“It can cause serious illness in people of all ages,” she said. “It can be life threatening. We especially worry about babies. Babies under a year old who get pertussis, half of them end up in the hospital. The coughing can last 10 weeks or more. Some older folks call it the 100-day cough because it really can last months once you get it. Sometimes the coughing fits can be so severe that people can literally break their ribs from coughing so hard. So, it’s not just a little cough. It can be serious.”

Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics, and most doctors recommend the child or patient staying home for the first five days of antibiotic treatment to prevent spreading the disease.

According to the CDC, symptoms usually develop within five to 10 days after being exposed, but sometimes take as long as three weeks. The early symptoms of the disease usually appear like a mild cough or fever, and in babies can appear as “apnea,” or a pause in the child’s breathing. After one to two weeks of the disease, the “whooping” sound of the cough may appear, due to the sharp inhalation that follows rapid coughing fits, along with vomiting and exhaustion.

Early treatment is especially important in whooping cough, and the CDC advises that treatment after three weeks of illness is unlikely to help. Rybka said that not everyone who is infected will have the severe symptoms of the disease. These people are called “carriers” and risk infecting others with more vulnerable immune systems. The best protection against whooping cough is vaccination, according to Rybka, but it loses its efficacy over time.

“Of all the vaccines, pertussis is the one that, unfortunately, it works but that protection decreases over time,” Rybka said. “It’s really important that older kids and adults, especially pregnant women or people who might be around newborns, do get that pertussis booster. A long time ago, we used to have a different vaccine that worked very, very well, but it had some side effects. Since the ’80s, there has been an increase in the reported cases and that’s when we started realizing that, hey, this vaccine wears off after a certain amount of time.”

TPH advises parents and adults make sure their family’s vaccinations are up to date. The CDC advises women get a dose of the Tdap vaccination during every pregnancy to protect the newborn from pertussis, and a booster dose is recommended every 10 years.

“We really rely on folks’ cooperation in order to prevent the spread of disease, and so those are things like being up to date on their vaccinations, and then choosing to remain at home when you’re ill and choosing to remain at home if the doctor decides you need antibiotic treatment,” Rybka said.


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