An Upstate elementary school child has been diagnosed with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. Anderson School District One says Palmetto Elementary School was notified on Saturday that the student had the highly-contagious disease. As soon as the diagnosis was verified, the district contacted the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and gave the information to all parents. DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley says many cases of the disease are reported in the state each year, including over 200 cases last year.
“It’s easily spread causing a severe coughing fit and can also result in missed days of work and school,” Beasley told South Carolina Radio Network. “So far to date this year in South Carolina, we’ve had a total of 79 cases of pertussis that have been reported to us; that compares to last year in which we had a total of 230 cases reported.”
Whooping cough is a serious, highly contagious disease caused by bacteria that can be especially dangerous for children under the age of five.
Most children under 6 years of age have received shots to protect them from whooping cough. However, that protection wears off in 5-10 years. That makes older children, teens and adults more likely to contract the infection and spread it to others. Beasley says older children will be required to receive what is known as the T-DAP (tuberculosis, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine this upcoming school year.
“Now in the past the T-DAP vaccine was never even a requirement to enroll in school in South Carolina, but in the upcoming school year it will be,” he said. The new requirement states that students entering the 7th grade must be vaccinated in order to increase the number of South Carolina children who are protected against pertussis.
Beasley says anyone who develops cold symptoms that also include a prolonged or severe cough (causing a “whoop” sound) may have whooping cough. If whooping cough is suspected, a health care provider should be consulted.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incubation period of pertussis is usually 7-10 days, with a range of 4-21 days, and rarely may be as long as 42 days. Beasley says the disease is usually treated with antibiotics.