REDMOND, OR -- Recent exposure to Pertussis, also called "Whooping Cough," in Redmond schools is concerning health officials. Jenny O’Keefe says her 13-year-old daughter tested positive last week. She tells KBND News that she originally thought it was just a cold, "So, finally, after about a month, realizing it wasn’t going away and thinking maybe the virus had morphed into mono or something else, because her energy level had tanked. She came back negative for mono and they tested for Whooping Cough; and, sure enough.”
Deschutes County Public Health says Pertussis starts as a "mild upper respiratory infection" and resembles a common cold, often with sneezing, low-grade fever and mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and is characterized by "episodes of numerous rapid coughs followed by a crowing of a high-pitched whooping sound and is sometimes followed by vomiting." O'Keefe says her daughter was exhausted by the illness, "She coughed and coughed until all of the air was just expelled from her lungs, to a point where she would gag and throw up. She would get really scared; her eyes would be watering, you could tell she couldn’t breathe. The physical toll that that level of coughing takes on her body, she would just end up like a rag doll." After antibiotics, the teen is now on the mend. O’Keefe’s older daughter was also sick and may have had the virus, although the 16-year-old wasn’t tested.
She regrets sending her daughter to school when she was sick, especially, O'Keefe says, if it means other kids at Elton Gregory Middle School were exposed, "It never occurred to me it would be Whooping Cough because they were vaccinated. I didn’t know that you could still catch it, even by being vaccinated." Health officials confirm the vaccine is not 100% effective, but say symptoms tend to be less severe in people who have been immunized. O'Keefe agrees, "Watching what my [daughters] went through, and they’re healthy and they’re strong and they’ve been immunized; the thought of an unvaccinated infant or toddler getting this really terrifies me because I saw what it did to my big, strong, healthy kids."
Deschutes County Public Health officials urge families to make sure vaccinations are up-to-date, including the Tdap booster recommended for children at age 11. Kids should be kept home from school if they show symptoms, and officials suggest parents seek a medical evaluation by a doctor to rule out Pertussis. There have been four confirmed cases in Redmond in the past few months, with a number of other suspected cases.