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Yamhill County Public Health warns parents of potential exposure on Jan. 2 in Newberg

School district officials announced last week that a student at Newberg High School has contracted pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

In a letter sent to parents Jan. 10, Yamhill County Public Health officer William Koenig informed parents that students may have been exposed on Jan. 2 and that exposed people could be symptomatic through the week of Jan. 23.

"Currently this appears to be an isolated case," said Lindsey Manfrin, deputy director of Yamhill County Health and Human Services. "These days it is not unusual to have a case here and there pop up."

The letter included recommendations to consult a health provider if they or their student shows symptoms of pertussis, to check if the family is up to date with current vaccine recommendations and that because pregnant women with the illness can infect their newborns, they are recommended to receive the Tdap booster vaccine with every pregnancy.

Symptoms — which first presents as a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough — usually begin seven to 10 days after exposure, but onset can take as long as six weeks.

Coughing gradually becomes more severe and after a week or two the second stage of the illness begins, characterized by coughing spasms that end with long gasps or "whoops," sometimes resulting in vomiting, as the patient attempts to breathe. This stage can last for up to 10 weeks, but after undergoing a five-day course of antibiotics, patients are generally considered to be non-communicable.

Manfrin added that her department's primary goal is to prevent the spread of the illness, in particular to protect infants under 12 months, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, because for those populations the disease is more dangerous and potentially fatal.

In addition to staying current with vaccines, preventative measures like frequently washing hands with soap and covering one's coughs or sneezes are recommended.

It is still possible to contract pertussis, which is caused by a bacteria, if one has had all the necessary vaccines, but the risk of infection is much greater in those who are not up to date on their vaccines.

Two days prior to the letter from the public health department, the Newberg School District distributed a reminder letter to parents about flu season.

In the letter, district nurse Annie Berger instructed parents to keep their students home if they exhibited a fever over 100 degrees, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting in the preceding 24 hours.

The letter also included some basic recommendations to help curb the spread of the flu, including that parents and students receive flu shots and call their doctor early if they are concerned about their child demonstrating flu symptoms.

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