Multiple cases of whooping cough have been reported at East Chapel Hill High and Chapel Hill High Schools.
Jeff Nash, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools spokesperson, said the district was communicating directly with parents and working closely with the Orange County Health Department.
Several cases of whooping cough were reported in Orange County, but those numbers fluctuate said Iulia Vann, Public Health Services Manager at the Orange County Health Department.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial respiratory infection similar to the common cold, and is characterized by a loud “whooping” cough that accompanies the symptoms. It is especially contagious within the first couple weeks of contraction, and is easily transmitted Vann said.
It is particularly dangerous for infants and young children. The coughing spells can cut off their air supply and cause difficulty breathing which can lead to death. Most whooping cough deaths occur in young infants, who haven’t received the full dose of vaccination yet.
To prevent the disease Vann recommends vaccination. The TDaP vaccine includes protection against pertussis, and is recommended by the CDC on a specific schedule for children 2 months to 6 years of age.
“By being vaccinated, you can decrease the risk of getting the illness, and if you do get the illness, that illness is probably going to be less severe in people that are vaccinated compared to people that are not vaccinated," Vann said.
Pertussis cases have increased in the last few months, and there were 256 reported cases in North Carolina in 2016. The proportion of disease appears to be increasing in school aged children and adolescents. This increase could be caused by many factors including a change in the pertussis bacteria.
“We see this increase on a cycle every few years, and it’s something that has been going on in North Carolina for a while now,” Vann said.
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