BEND, OR -- Public health officials are encouraging families to make sure students are up-to-date on their immunizations, after three cases of whooping cough were recently confirmed in local high schools. Morgan Feld is the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Deschutes County Public Health. She acknowledges getting the vaccine may not provide 100% protection, but it's the best option, "The Pertussis vaccine is about 80 to 90% effective, and the vaccine actually wanes over time, and that's why we do things like booster shots." Feld tells KBND News, "For people who have been vaccinated for Pertussis and still contract the disease, it is generally less severe, so they have a less severe and significantly reduced illness duration. So, the vaccine is the best way to protect our community and reduce harm."
Deschutes County has four confirmed cases so far in 2019. The three most recent were found in Summit and Bend Senior High schools. "We especially worry about schools because kids are in close proximity, and a lot of kids have either contact in their family that are younger, or are in contact with pregnant women," says Feld, "And we really worry about the infants and young babies in our community." On average, half of all infants who contract Pertussis have to be hospitalized. But Feld says Whooping Cough doesn't seem dangerous at the beginning, in older kids, so many parents may still send their child to school, contagious. "If you have cold symptoms, especially runny nose, sneezing, and most of all, the severe cough, you do want to be seen by a doctor. If a doctor diagnoses Pertussis and prescribes antibiotics, you still actually need to wait another five days after starting the antibiotics to go back to school."
According to Feld, about 95% of Deschutes County students are up to date on the most common vaccinations.