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Press Release February 28, 2014

Weber-Morgan Health Department working to quell Pertussis outbreak

Warmer weather still calls for covering your cough and staying home when sick

Weber-Morgan Health officials are working with parents and teachers to contain a pertussis outbreak that is circulating in several schools in Weber County. Utah Department of Health guidelines define an outbreak as whenever there are two or more cases in one school within 20 days.

“Pertussis is something we see all year long, not just during cold and flu season,” says Amy Carter, communicable disease nurse with the Weber-Morgan Health Department. “This reminds us that we all need to be diligent about getting vaccinated, frequent hand washing, covering your cough and staying home when you are ill.”

Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is a highly contagious respiratory infection characterized by severe coughing fits. Adults and adolescents may not even realize they have pertussis, which to them may just seem like a bad cold or cough. However, they are often contagious and unknowingly spreading the disease to others in the community.

“While the vaccines are very effective, we know there are some people who will not build full immunity,” Carter says. “Our main goal is to protect infants who cannot be immunized and are most at-risk from severe complications and even death.”

One infant has been hospitalized in the current outbreak and five others are experiencing symptoms, Carter said. The number of individuals involved in the investigation has risen to more than 30, including family members and students who attend Wahlquist Junior High, Plain City Elementary and Evergreen Montessori Academy. School officials sent letters alerting parents to the outbreak earlier this week.
“Fortunately, it appears that most of the cases are recovering,” Carter said. “We hope that people will continue to take preventive measures and contact their medical provider if they are experiencing sneezing, a runny nose and other cold like symptoms especially if they have been exposed to someone who has had a lingering cough. Pertussis symptoms can last as long as three months if left untreated.”

People with symptoms should remain home from school, work and other activities until completing a five day course of antibiotics. More information can be found www.cdc.gov or www.immunize.org.