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PERTUSSIS (WHOOPING COUGH) EXPOSURE NOTICE
One or more children at your child’s school have been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough). These students are currently being treated with antibiotics and will remain at home until no longer infectious, however, your child may have been exposed to pertussis while at school. We are sending you this letter to make you aware of what symptoms to watch for. The incubation period for pertussis is usually 5 to 10 days, but may be as long as 20 days. Attached is an information sheet on pertussis. If your child shows any of the symptoms described on this sheet please keep your child at home and seek medical attention from your personal physician. For more information, you or your physician may call the Marathon County Health Department at (715) 261-1900. Ruth Klee Marx, B.S., M.S. Epidemiologist WISCONSIN DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH Department of Health Services Disease Fact Sheet Series
What is pertussis?
Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease that affects the respiratory tract.

Who gets pertussis?
Pertussis can infect persons of all ages, but is most serious in infants and young children.

How is pertussis spread?
The bacteria are spread by contact with the respiratory droplets from an infected person through
coughing. Exposure usually occurs after repeated indoor face-to face contact. Household
spread is common.

What are the signs and symptoms of pertussis?
In infants and young children, the disease begins much like a cold with a runny nose, possible
low grade fever and a mild but irritating cough for 1-2 weeks. The illness progresses to spells of
explosive coughing that can interrupt breathing, eating and sleeping and is commonly followed
by vomiting and exhaustion. Following the cough, the patients may make a loud crowing or
"whooping" sound as they struggle to inhale air (hence the common name "whooping cough").
The severe coughing spells can last for several weeks to two months or longer. In older
children, adolescents and adults the symptoms are usually milder and without the typical
whoop.

What are the complications associated with pertussis?
In infants less than 6 months of age, the most common complication is bacterial pneumonia
(17%) followed by neurologic complications such as seizures (2.1%) and encephalopathy (0.2
%). Loss of weight from nutritional disturbance and dehydration is also a complication from the
disease. More than half of the infants with confirmed pertussis require hospitalization.

How soon do symptoms appear after exposure?
Usually 7-20 days.


DEVELOPED BY THE DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BUREAU OF COMMUNICABLE DISEASES AND PREPAREDNESS
COMMUNICABLE DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGY SECTION
P-42147 (Rev. 12/05)
When and for how long is a person able to spread pertussis?
Pertussis is most contagious in the early stage of the illness before the onset of the explosive
coughing spell. The spread of pertussis may be up to three weeks or more after cough onset.
The spread period can be reduced to 5 days after the initiation of an appropriate course of
antibiotics administered in the early stages of illness.

Is there treatment for pertussis?
There are four antibiotics recommended for the treatment of pertussis that will shorten the
period of communicability. Your doctor may chose one of these antibiotics for treatment. The
appropriate antibiotics include either a 5-day course of azithromycin, a 7-day course of
clarithromycin or a 14-day course of either erythromycin or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxozale
(TMP/SMX). Persons with pertussis should be isolated from school, work or similar activities
until they have completed at least the first 5 days of an appropriate antibiotic therapy. The
remaining doses of antibiotics need to be taken as prescribed.

How can the spread of pertussis be prevented?
Treatment is recommended for well persons who are close contacts (especially household
contacts) of the case to prevent or reduce the severity of illness. Any untreated contacts of a
case that develops a persistent cough should be tested for pertussis. Confirmed or suspected
cases of pertussis that do not receive appropriate antibiotics should be isolated for 3 weeks.

How is pertussis confirmed?
Confirmation is by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) assay or by laboratory culture of a nasal
swab specimen obtained during the early stage of illness. PCR is the test of choice for
laboratory diagnosis of pertussis.

How can pertussis be prevented?
Routine immunization of infants and children with acellular Pertussis (aP) vaccine is
recommended at 2, 4, 6 and 15-18 months of age with a booster dose at 4-6 years of age. It is
given in a combination with Diphtheria and Tetanus vaccines called DTaP. The effectiveness of
the vaccine in children who have received at least 3 doses is estimated to be 80%; and
protection is even greater against severe disease. Protection will begin to diminish after about 3
years. Persons who experience pertussis after immunization usually have a milder case. DTaP
vaccine is currently recommended for children 2 months through 6 years of age. A safe and
effective acellular pertussis vaccine for adolescents and adults was licensed in 2005. Called
Tdap, the vaccine is routinely recommended as a one time booster for children 11-12 years of
age. It is also recommended as one time booster for adults.
Does past infection with pertussis make a person immune?
Confirmed pertussis is likely to confer immunity. However, the duration of immunity from past
infection is unknown.
DEVELOPED BY THE DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BUREAU OF COMMUNICABLE DISEASES AND PREPAREDNESS
COMMUNICABLE DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGY SECTION
PPH 42147 (Rev. 12/05)

Source: http://www.dceverest.net/pdfs/MarathonCountyCoughLetterEnglish_2.pdf

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