The student news site of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Lake Balboa, CA

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The Pearl Post

The student news site of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Lake Balboa, CA

The student news site of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Lake Balboa, CA

The Pearl Post

Whooping cough outbreak puts students at risk


Five students had to be quarantined from school when two students became infected with the whooping cough virus this fall.

On Oct. 2 and Oct. 18, students and parents of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School received letters informing them about the whooping cough outbreak that has been spreading throughout Los Angeles County.

“Whooping cough can be serious, but can be prevented by getting recommended whooping cough vaccinations,” according to the Los Angeles County Public Health website.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is spread through the air when people cough. Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the respiratory system.

People who are infected with whooping cough have coughing spells that may last many seconds. At the end of each coughing spell, they may gasp loudly, vomit or choke, which can be so severe the person can’t breathe.

The illness first starts out like the common cold, with symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, mild cough or fever. Then it worsens over one to two weeks with symptoms such as more severe coughing with a “whoop”, vomiting and exhaustion after coughing fits.

By law, the Los Angeles Unified School District requires students to receive a DTap or Tdap shot to prevent themselves from getting the virus.

However, some students did not receive the shot therefore they had to be quarantined from school when it was announced that there was a whooping cough outbreak in the school. They were secluded from everyone in the campus as a safety measure to ensure they do not get the virus.

“The symptoms are pretty nonspecific, and so doctors don’t always suspect it. Pertussis is high on the list if that whoop is present. The ‘whoop’ sounds like a sharp gasping intake of breath after all the air has been coughed out of your lungs. If it’s not, it’s likely to go unrecognized because there aren’t really other signs and symptoms that are as characteristic,” according to an online interview with CDC Infectious Disease expert Tom Clark.

The DTap vaccine is required when students are younger than seven years old. The children need five doses of DTap, which lasts six to seven years before students get Tdap. The Tdap booster shot is needed for pre-teens, teenagers and adults who are older than seven years old. One dose of Tdap is needed to be protected from whooping cough.

“The vaccine usually protects against pertussis, but sometimes even vaccinated children can get a milder illness,” according to the area medical director Ellse Pomerance.

Antibiotics also prevent the spread of pertussis. Students who catch the whooping cough need to be excluded from school for at least five days, while taking the appropriate antibiotics. Or if the student chooses not to take antibiotics, they need to stay home for 21 days.

“If the student is sick with the whooping cough, they can’t go to school for at least five days while taking the recommended antibiotics until they feel well to go back to school,” school nurse Estela Carlos said.

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