Pertussis case reported at Edwardsville High

News-DemocratSeptember 16, 2013 


— A new case of pertussis has been reported at Edwardsville High School.

Edwardsville District 7 warned parents Monday that a student at Edwardsville High School has been diagnosed with a suspected case of pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through coughing and sneezing. While it is preventable through vaccination, maintaining the immunity requires booster shots every 10 years for adults. It can lead to serious complications or even death in infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Pertussis appears like a common cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, low fever and mild cough. But the cough worsens over a week or two and creates a spasmodic burst of rapid coughing with the characteristic whooping sound, which is violent enough to sometimes cause patients to vomit or pass out.

Last fall, two students at an Edwardsville middle school came down with pertussis. The previous spring, there was a spike in pertussis cases in Madison County, with 19 cases in April and May 2012, while elsewhere in the country there was an epidemic with thousands of cases.

Edwardsville High School also had a student diagnosed with mumps over the summer. The student was attending summer school classes. Like pertussis, mumps is preventable by vaccine and can have serious complications.

It was not immediately known if either case involved a student who had not been vaccinated. Pertussis vaccination is required for school, but can be waived for religious or health-related reasons.

So far St. Clair County has had no reports of pertussis, according to Marsha Wild, manager of infectious diseases at the St. Clair County Health Department. However, Wild said it is very important for adults to make sure they get the Tdap booster shot to maintain immunity for pertussis, as there is a national increase in pertussis cases.

"It tends to be an incentive when a new baby is born, because we know the danger of passing it along to an infant," Wild said.

However, it is harder to track adult compliance with the recommended booster, since there is no requirement like there is for children attending school, Wild said.

Worldwide, pertussis kills about 300,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even if does not cause death, pertussis is highly dangerous for infants, and the coughing fits after a pertussis infection can last for 10 weeks or more.

A study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that new strains of pertussis are missing a protein called pertactin, which helps it attach to the lining of the lungs. However, the CDC indicates that vaccines appear to be effective against the new strain as well as the older strains. While there are more cases now than there have been in years past - 27,550 in 2010 - according to the CDC, it's nowhere near the 200,000 cases per year that were reported before the pertussis vaccine.

Parents are urged to contact their child's physician if symptoms appear, or to call the Madison County Health Department at 692-8954, ext. 2. Adults are reminded to check their own immunization history and determine whether boosters are needed, particularly if pregnant or if the family is expecting an infant.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 239-2507.

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