The Suffolk County Department of Health Services reported a case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, has been reported out of Sag Harbor’s Pierson Middle-High School.
According to a September 24 letter sent to parents and staff from Dr. Gregson H. Pigott with the county’s Division of Public Health, the county has seen an increase in the number of pertussis cases being reported.
This past spring, both the East Hampton School District and the Springs School reported cases of pertussis, a highly contagious bacterial disease that is spread through the air by coughing by an infected individual. Children and adults may still develop pertussis even if they are up to date with their vaccinations as immunity to pertussis wanes over the years, said Pigott, who added that keeping pertussis vaccinations up to date is the best defense in preventing the illness, which can be particularly dangerous to infants that are not fully immunized.
The first stage of pertussis, according to Pigott, mimics a one to two week cold with mild upper respiratory symptoms, a low-grade fever and a slight cough. Stage two symptoms include spasmodic coughing episodes, sometimes followed by a long whooping sound. This stage can last up to six weeks and can also include periods of vomiting, gagging and facial color changes after coughing episodes. Coughing can continue for months, even after the infected party is no longer contagious after antibiotic treatment.
Once a susceptible individual is exposed to pertussis, it may take up to 21 days for symptoms to develop. Incubation may rarely be as long as 42 days.
Pigott advised parents to immediately contact their pediatrician or health care provider if their children show symptoms of pertussis and request their child be tested for the disease.
For additional information on Pertussis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov. Parents or their physician may contact the Division of Disease Control at 631-853-3055 if they have any questions.