Catlin grade-schooler diagnosed with pertussis

CATLIN — Catlin school officials are taking precautions over winter break after a grade-school student was diagnosed with pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

The case was confirmed Wednesday, said Karen Trimble, a registered nurse with the Vermilion County Health Department. She said it's the first and only confirmed case in the county in 2012.

School officials were notified about the diagnosis immediately, Catlin school Superintendent Gary Lewis announced late last week. He said the grade school at 216 N. Webster St. is being disinfected over break as a precaution.

Meanwhile, local health officials are monitoring people who may have been in contact with the student, who was not identified publicly.

Pertussis is caused by bacteria that invade the mouth, nose and throat. It a highly contagious disease and is easily spread through coughing and sneezing.

Pertussis can affect people of any age. However, infants, especially those who are too young to be vaccinated, are especially at risk for catching the disease, Trimble said.

The disease is typically treated with antibiotics. Adults and others who are in close contact with a patient may need preventative treatment.

While Illinois public health officials reported a marked increase in pertussis cases in 2011 due to a series of outbreaks primarily concentrated in Cook County and surrounding counties, there were no reported cases in Vermilion County that year.

Health officials said whooping-cough symptoms can appear five to 21 days following exposure. Starting out, symptoms are similar to those of a common cold including a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild, occasional cough.

"Sometimes the cough can become severe and spasmodic," Trimble said, adding the characteristic "whooping" sound comes from breathing in after a coughing episode.

Trimble said if people have cold-like symptoms that persist, they should contact their medical provider for testing and treatment. She also recommended that people get proper immunizations.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, immunity following disease or vaccination is not lifelong. Older children, adolescents and adults can become susceptible to pertussis five to 10 years after their last dose of pertussis-containing vaccine.

Older children and adults can carry the germ and spread it, even though their cold-like symptoms may be so mild they might not seek medical care.

In addition, Trimble recommended that people take other preventative measures such as covering their mouths when they cough and washing hands frequently to prevent the spread of pertussis and other diseases.

Lewis said once school resumes, people can call the school nurse if they have any questions.

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