Letter urges families to update children's vaccinations at Barlow High School.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION - Somebody is not happy about getting her vaccinations to protect against whooping cough and other diseases. A student at Barlow High School came down with a case of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, prompting school officials to send Barlow families a letter reminding them to make sure their vaccines are up to date.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County's deputy health officer, confirmed the case and said the letter went out Tuesday, Jan. 9.

"The illness usually begins with cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose or an irritating cough," the letter said. "The cough can become severe, with violent episodes of coughing, and can last for weeks to months. Sometimes there can be a "whooping" sound in young children, and some people vomit after coughing. Usually, there is no fever."

The letter "reminds people to make sure their vaccines are up to date and watch for symptoms," Vines said.

There have been no other cases reported this year in East Multnomah County. Privacy rules prohibit identifying the student with pertussis.

People who are up-to-date on their shots can still come down with whooping cough. "Unfortunately, the pertussis vaccine is good, but not great. We do see cases in kids that are vaccinated," she said. "Fortunately it is not life-threatening in teens."

But it can be serious for children aged 1 and younger, who are "still getting their vaccines."

"Anybody with cold symptoms should stay home from school and work and contact their health care provider," Vines advised, "and avoid contact with children younger than 1 year old until you know you don't have pertussis."

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