Pertussis Plagues Patriots

Whooping cough outbreak takes a toll on 35 students; prevention methods are given by staff and students.

This fall, Stevenson has experienced an unusual outbreak of whooping cough. With 35 confirmed cases so far and the flu season approaching, both students and staff are taking precautions to prevent themselves from contracting these illnesses. 

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is an illness which causes one to experience a severe cough. The “whoop” sound in whooping cough is commonly misconceived as the sound made while coughing. However, according to Stevenson nurse Peg Cucci, “It’s the intake of air after coughing that the ‘whoop’ comes from.” 

Along with the “whoop” noise, there are a couple other key symptoms that distinguish whooping cough from other cough illnesses. Whooping cough can last anywhere from two weeks to more than a month, having earned the nickname, “The Hundred Days Cough.” This illness can also be characterized by “the persistent long term cough that will often times wake you out of a sound sleep,” Cucci said. 

Pertussis does not typically have serious effects on teenagers. The most common complication of whooping cough in teens is minor weight loss. However, this illness can be very dangerous for infants or the elderly.

“As a community, we have decided to protect those people by protecting ourselves from pertussis,” Cucci said. 

Amidst the whooping cough outbreak is the start of flu season. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when one has the flu, they may experience fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, headaches, and diarrhea.

Out of all these symptoms, there are a couple that are the most significant signs of the flu.

“The cardinal symptoms of flu are body ache and fever,” Cucci said. 

According to Cucci, to prevent oneself from getting sick, the best actions to take are staying away from those with illnesses and getting vaccinated. Lora Lewis ’22 hopes to stay healthy by following these steps.

“I wash my hands and often use hand sanitizer,” Lewis said. “I also try to stay away from people who are coughing abnormally.”

However, according to the CDC, if already sick, it is advised to stay home for the period of time recommended by doctors. This keeps others healthy and prevents the spread of illness around the school. 

The time it takes to recover varies from illness to illness. For pertussis, “You will be treated with an antibiotic and the antibiotic, a five day course called a z pack, and you need to stay home all five days,” Cucci said. 

For influenza, “You need to be at home until you are fever-free for 24 hours without medicine,” Cucci said. “If you have a fever and take two Tylenol to feel better, that day does not count.”

Both students and nurses alike emphasize how important they feel it is to get vaccinated against illnesses like whooping cough or the flu. “

It protects you from four strains of influenza,” Cucci said. “Every year, there is an educated guess made of what strains will be the problem, and that is what they put in the vaccine.” Like the flu vaccine, the vaccines for whooping cough are also effective against multiple strains of the disease, according to the CDC.

 The cause of the pertussis outbreak at Stevenson is still unknown, which leaves students and staff with many questions on when and how the spread of this disease will stop. Earlier this month, the CDC came to Stevenson and gave students the opportunity to participate in a study about this disease.

“The questions about pertussis are being looked at by people who are professional epidemiologists to try and figure out exactly what is going on,” Cucci said.