Pertussis exposure threatens student health before finals

William Sallomi, Author

Palo Alto High School students are cautiously protecting themselves from germs as final exams are approaching after multiple classes were exposed to pertussis — better known as whooping cough — over the course of the past week.

The administration called students who share classes with a student who has been diagnosed with the disease. In the call, students were asked to take precautions and to contact their health care providers if they experience any symptoms such as coughing, a runny nose or a low-grade fever.

According to district nurse Rosemarie Craig, students who receive a phone call and later develop symptoms should meet with their health care providers immediately.

“If a student has been exposed to a confirmed case of pertussis, and develops symptoms, they should follow-up with their health care provider for a possible pertussis diagnosis,” Craig said.

According to Craig, the best way to stay healthy is to keep up to date on all vaccinations and to try to stop the spread of germs.

“The most effective way to prevent pertussis is to be up to date on your vaccinations,” Craig said. “However, in general, to avoid getting sick you want to practice good hand washing and covering your mouth for coughs and sneezes.”

Craig said that whooping cough is a communicable disease which can spread easily 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 they share breathing space,” Craig said.

According to Craig, despite the contagious nature of the disease, those who don’t come into contact with a student who has contracted whooping cough are not at high risk.

“If you are not exposed to a student with a confirmed case of pertussis, you are likely not to have contracted pertussis,” Craig said.

According to Craig, students should minimize risk  “While we want all of our students at school every day engaged in learning, their health and that of their classmates is a top priority,” Craig said.