WATAUGA COUNTY, NC -- The Appalachian District Health Department says they've confirmed one case of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Watauga County.

The case was confirmed on February 7, 2018 in a Watauga High School student. School and health officials report the individual is being treated, per guidelines established by the State of North Carolina and the Centers for Disease Control, and is fully cooperating in following isolation instructions. Watauga County Schools and the local health department are working closely together with school and community partners. “We appreciate the partnership with Watauga County Schools and their quick action to notify families. This is a good reminder to make sure your family is up-to-date on their immunizations” said Jennifer Greene, Health Director.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After cough fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound.

What are the symptoms of pertussis?

The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include:

• Runny nose

• Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)

• Mild, occasional cough

• Apnea – a pause in breathing (in babies)

After 1 to 2 weeks and as the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis may appear and include:

• Paroxysms (fits) of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound

• Vomiting (throwing up) during or after coughing fits

• Exhaustion (very tired) after coughing fits

Pertussis is only found in humans and spreads from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease to another person by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near one another where you share breathing space. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents, or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. Infected people are most contagious up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.

Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old. The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated. Make sure each of your own family-household members, especially infants and young children, are up to date on their immunizations.