Report from Margaret Carr Upton MSN, FNP
Director of Health Services
November 18, 2010

Pertussis or whooping cough has shown a significant increase this year in Virginia and cross the country according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“While commonly thought to be a pediatric disease, many teens and adults unknowingly contract and spread pertussis,” stated the department in a November 12 letter. “Early recognition of pertussis, appropriate treatment, preventive treatment of contacts, and vaccination will mitigate disease spread,” continued the report.

Early symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, low grade fever, and slight cough. The cough progresses over one to two weeks to paroxysmal coughs (coughing fits) that result in vomiting. Infants who are not fully immunized are at the greatest risk for complications from pertussis.

Pertussis is easily transmissible and is most contagious during the early symptoms. Fortunately, there is treatment available for pertussis.

The Virginia State Health Commission recommends isolation of people who are suspected to have contracted pertussis, as well as close contacts of that person who have shown early symptoms. The isolation lasts for five days during which the person will receive antibiotic treatment.

Pertussis at EMU

We have had several suspected cases this fall at EMU.

EMU has set aside a limited number of rooms to provide care on campus for students who are being treated for potential pertussis. This isolation limits contact with others for a five-day period, as recommended by the Virginia Department of Health. Those who live close enough may return home during the five-day period if that is preferred.

Prevention

The single most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination. Children are routinely immunized against pertussis but immunity decreases over time. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that adolescents and adults get a one-time Tdap booster.

EMU Health Services is encouraging everyone to check their vaccination status for pertussis and get a Tdap booster if you have not had one as an adolescent or adult.

As always, continue to cover your cough and wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of many illnesses. Please help us keep our campus healthy.