The number of whooping cough cases is still climbing in La Plata County, and the students and staff at Durango High School should be particularly vigilant.
A DHS student was recently diagnosed with whooping cough, also known as pertussis, and all students and staff with a cough should inform their physician of possible exposure, according to a San Juan Basin Health Department statement.
Across La Plata and Archuleta counties, there have been 13 cases of pertussis reported since Sept. 1, said Keri McCune, epidemiologist with the health department.
Last year, there were 21 cases in the region.
“That is not unusual for pertussis to sort of wax and wane,” McCune said.
The disease is transmitted when a person breathes in the bacteria from the cough or sneeze of an infected individual. It can take between four to 21 days after exposure to develop the symptoms of pertussis.
Sometimes adults, especially those who have been vaccinated, can experience symptoms that might be difficult to diagnose as pertussis. These symptoms include a runny nose or a low-grade fever, McCune said.
But adults can easily pass along the disease to young children and infants.
“Pertussis is so contagious. ... It will just spread though the community like wildfire, and eventually, it’s going to touch a child or an infant,” McCune said.
Those with severe pertussis experience coughing fits, breathlessness and vomiting. In young children, it can result in seizures, long-term neurological problems and death.
Those diagnosed with whooping cough should complete five days of a full course of the appropriate antibiotic and stay home during that period.
The health department also recommends reviewing immunization records to make sure all your vaccines are up to date.