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Officials warn of higher risk after longer period of potential exposure from second case

A second confirmed case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, was discovered at Newberg High School last month, according to a Jan. 29 release sent out to students, parents and staff by the Yamhill County Public Health Department.

The first case, reported to parents in a letter Jan. 10, involved a potential exposure period to others of just one day, Jan. 2, the first day back from winter break.

In its letter regarding the latest case, Yamhill County Public Health reported that potential exposure could have occurred during a three-and-a-half week period between Jan. 2 and Jan. 26 and also may have involved the boys basketball team.

The letter explained that people who were potentially exposed during that period could be symptomatic through the week of Feb. 16.

With the longer period of exposure, Yamhill Health and Human Services Deputy Director Lindsey Manfrin said there is a higher likelihood that people could get sick, but noted that in its investigation, public health officials did not identify any people who may have been in contact with the second case and are considered to be susceptible because they have not been vaccinated.

"That's always a good sign and generally means that the majority of the people, at least in the school, that this individual was around were vaccinated, which increases the likelihood that they will not get pertussis and therefore spread it," Manfrin said. "Nothing is 100 percent, unfortunately."

Officials reiterated their recommendations to prevent pertussis infection in the community, including to consult a health provider if one shows symptoms, to make sure family members are up to date on their vaccinations and that women receive the adult pertussis booster (Tdap) with every pregnancy to prevent infecting their newborns.

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. Pertussis can be life threatening in infants less than 12 months old.

For more information, call the Public Health office at 503-434-7525.

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