Pertussis case confirmed at Dunbar High School

Posted at 3:16 PM, Sep 30, 2019

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The first pertussis case of the 2019-2020 year has been confirmed in a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, officials with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department confirm.

Pertussis is an extremely contagious disease. The most notable symptom is a cough that is followed by a sharp breath-intake that sounds like a "whoop."

Health Department officials recommend antibiotics for high-risk students, including those with weakened immune systems or serious illnesses.

A vaccine is typically given to children, but a booster may be needed after age 11.

For more information about pertussis and vaccines, call the Health Department at call 859-288-2437.

The early symptoms are similar to a common cold: runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and coughing. After 1-2 weeks, the cough often gets worse, changing from a dry, hacking cough to bursts of uncontrollable, sometimes violent, coughing. During a coughing episode, it might be temporarily impossible to take a breath because of the intensity and repetition of the coughs. When finally able to breathe, the person might take a sudden gasp of air, which can cause a “whooping” sound. Vomiting and exhaustion can often follow a coughing spell.

The vaccine against pertussis is routine and required for school-age kids. One dose of the booster vaccine, called Tdap, is recommended for ages 11 and above for protection. Teenagers and adults who have never received the Tdap vaccine should check with their primary care provider or call the health department at 859-288-2483 to check availability. Although the vaccine is effective, immunity tends to decrease over time, making the booster important for older children and adults.