Pertussis cases affect Utah schools

Posted at 12:39 PM, Apr 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-20 14:45:05-04

Health officials are warning the public of a pertussis outbreak in Utah schools.

According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, "is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. The coughing can make it hard to breathe.  A deep 'whooping' sound is often heard when the patient tries to take a breath."

The Bear River Health Department has confirmed seven pertussis cases in the last three weeks in northern Utah. Four students from Wasatch Jr. High in Salt Lake County were also infected and have since been vaccinated. The students had mild symptoms and none were hospitalized.

The Salt Lake Valley Health Department has been working with the Granite School District to prevent pertussis from spreading any further.

"It's very important for school officials [...] to report cases to us at the health department. We work closely with school nurses to ensure that if anyone has symptoms of pertussis they are excluded from school," said Elene Risk of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. "Anyone who is not up to date [with pertussis vaccinations] cannot return to school until they've received five days of antibiotics. If they're not vaccinated, then they need to remain out of school for 21 days."

Symptoms of pertussis include runny nose, low grade fever and coughing fits. Anyone who has a lingering cough or has not kept up to date on vaccinations is urged to see a doctor.