Whooping Cough at High School Now

Children and adults may be susceptible

    Following a reported case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at the East Hampton Middle School and another at the Springs School, the East Hampton High School administration yesterday sent out an e-mail to warn parents and administrators that a case has now been detected at the high school.
    The district is in contact with the Suffolk County Health Department, according to the e-mail from Adam Fine, the school principal, who referred all questions to the high school nurse, Lorraine Talmage.
    According to a March 29 letter from the County Health Department, which is still posted on the school district’s Web site, “a person with pertussis is infectious for 21 days from the start of the cough, or until he/she has been on full days of appropriate antibiotic therapy. Children and adults may be susceptible and still develop pertussis even if they are up to date with their vaccinations, as immunity to pertussis wanes over the years.”
    Despite the vaccine against the highly infectious disease, there has been an uptick in cases in Suffolk County this year. However, Dr. Gail Schonfeld of East End Pediatrics in East Hampton explained in April that the increasing diagnoses of pertussis could be due to the fact that new testing is more precise, and that the disease is simply easier to diagnose now.
    Pertussis can be fatal, especially for the very young or very old.    
    Whooping cough earned its name from the whooping sound made by someone with the illness as they attempt to draw in a breath. People may feel fine between coughing fits, “but when they start coughing, they can’t stop. There is really thick mucus that blocks the airways, so there is a feeling of not being able to breath,” Dr. Schonfeld said in April.
    Both the middle school student and the Springs student recovered fully and were back in school within a week.