NETHER PROVIDENCE — Another case of whopping cough has been confirmed in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District.
In a Dec. 4 note to parents and guardians of Strath Haven High School students, Principal Kristopher Brown wrote that an eighth case of the highly contagious respiratory disease had been positively identified in the district – the latest case involving a student at the school.
Superintendent Lisa Palmer did not respond to requests for information on whether any other district schools had experienced additional cases.
Brown and school nurse Deborah Sweeney stressed that any signs of the illness should be promptly reported to a physician. In addition, they emphasized the importance of making sure all of a student’s vaccines are up to date, which is “the best way to control pertussis in the future.”
In mid-November, district officials advised the school community that seven cases of the disease had been confirmed since the beginning of the year.
Palmer wrote that all of those afflicted were under the care of their doctors and had either completed or were in the process of finished the recommended antibiotics treatment.
Prior to wide availability of pertussis vaccines in the 1940s, roughly 200,000 children were sickened with the disease each year, resulting in about 9,000 fatalities, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, the number of cases reported annually in the U.S. ranges from 10,000 to 40,000. In 2017, for example, the CDC reported there were 18,975 cases and 13 fatalities in a nation of more than 330 million.
A recent peak year for whooping cough was 2012, when there were 48,277 cases identified in the U.S. – the largest number since 1955, when there were 62,786.
A fact sheet from the Pennsylvania Department of Health states that pertussis is a very contagious disease of the lungs and airways that has been a common childhood illness for centuries.
It notes that the disease is caused by bacteria found in the nose, mouth and throat of an infected person, with signs and symptoms usually starting to appear about 10 days after infection, though they may begin as early as six days or as long as 20 days after infection.