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Health and Wellness

Nurses' Notes: Pertussis

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a bacterial infection that can cause violent coughing and difficulty breathing. After coughing, deep breaths that have a whooping sound are often heard. It easily spreads from person to person through coughing and sneezing which can release the bacteria into the air. Most people recover completely from pertussis. But, complications from the disease can be severe in those in high risk groups, in infants under one year of age, and in children who have not been fully immunized against the disease.  Children diagnosed with pertussis would need to stay home from school until after 5 days of treatment.

What can we do to protect ourselves from pertussis?

•  Keep students who are coughing home from school until they can be evaluated by your health care provider.

•  Always cover mouths and noses with a tissue or with upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

•  Hands should be washed frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.  

•   Keep hands away from the nose, mouth, and eye areas.

•   Notify your child's school nurse if a doctor has diagnosed him/her with pertussis.

•   Make sure your family's vaccinations are current:

Even though most children are immunized against pertussis with the DTaP vaccine series, their immunity decreases as they reach adolescence.  For school, the last  DTaP dose is required for kindergarten and at 10 years from the last dose.  A booster dose of Pertussis is now available as Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) and is recommended for all children between the ages of 11-12 years. It can also be given in place of a booster dose of the tetanus shot that is recommended for all adults every 10 years. Vaccination is especially important in families caring for new babies. Check with your health care provider to see if a dose of Tdap is recommended for you or your children. The Tdap vaccine is also available at Worth Township (708)371-3393 for children under the age of 18 years if they have not received a dose of tetanus or diphtheria within the past 5 years. You must live in the township and show immunization records.

If you would like to download this information for later use, please click on the document at the right.

References and Resources:  Koch, Christopher. Illinois Department of Public Health Memorandum: Health alert for pertussis 10/2/10;  Vernon, Michael, Cook County Department of Public Health Memorandum: Pertussis Health Alert 10/25/10

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