The KPC Student Health Clinic is recommending all students and staff evaluate
their risk for pertussis infection and get immunized if possible. Adults can
become ill and/or carry the pertussis bacterium to high risk groups such as
non or under immunized infants, children and the frail elderly.
Pertussis has been increasing in Alaska due to the outbreak in Washington
State and the frequent travel of our citizens back and forth to that area.
According to CDC website information, pertussis is an acute bacterial infection
of the respiratory tract that is caused by Bordetel a pertussis,
bacterium. B. pertussis
is a uniquely human pathogen that is transmitted from
an infected person to susceptible persons, primarily through aerosolized
droplets of respiratory secretions or by direct contact with respiratory
The incubation period of pertussis averages 7--10 days (range: 5--21 days)
and has been reported to be as long as 6 weeks. Pertussis has an insidious
onset with catarrhal symptoms (nasal congestion, runny nose, mild sore-
throat, mild dry cough, and minimal or no fever) that are indistinguishable
from those of minor respiratory tract infections. Some infants can have
atypical disease and initially have apneic spells and minimal cough or other
respiratory symptoms. The catarrhal stage last approximately 1--2 weeks. The
cough, which is initially intermittent, becomes paroxysmal. A typical
paroxysm is characterized by a succession of coughs that follow each other
without inspiration. Paroxysms terminate in typical cases with inspiratory
"whoop" and can be followed by post coughing vomiting. Although children
are often exhausted after a coughing paroxysm, they usually appear relatively
well between episodes. Paroxysms of cough usually increase in frequency and
severity as the il ness progresses and usually persist for 2--6 weeks.
Paroxysms can occur more frequently at night. The illness can be milder and
the characteristic whoop absent in children, adolescents, and adults who were
Convalescence is gradual and protracted. The severity of illness wanes,
paroxysms subside, and the frequency of coughing bouts decreases. A
nonparoxysmal cough can continue for 2--6 weeks or longer. During the
recovery period, superimposed viral respiratory infections can trigger a
Vaccination of susceptible persons is the most important preventive strategy
against pertussis. Universal childhood pertussis vaccine recommendations
have been implemented since the mid-1940s. For protection against pertussis
during childhood, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)
recommends 5 doses of diphtheria and tetanus toxoid and acellular pertussis
(DTaP) vaccine at ages 2, 4, 6, 15--18 months, and 4--6 years. Childhood
vaccination coverage for pertussis vaccines has been at an all-time high.
However, neither vaccination nor natural disease confers complete or lifelong
protective immunity against pertussis or reinfection. Immunity wanes after 5-
-10 years from the last pertussis vaccine dose. Older children, adolescents,
and adults can become susceptible to pertussis after a complete course of
As of August 27th, there have been 128 documented cases of whooping cough
in Alaska so far this year, more than quadruple the number of cases reported
in all of 2011 (24 cases), state health officials have reported. The last outbreak
The confirmed cases likely don't reflect the actual number of whooping
cough, or pertussis, infections statewide. Most people do not get tested
by nasopharyngeal swab, but get treated when a paroxysmal cough
lasts longer than 2 weeks and pertussis is suspected.
Prevention is by getting a T-dap immunization. T-dap refers to the
Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis vaccine. Health officials recommend the
vaccine for all young children and boosters for adolescents and adults.
It is similar to getting a tetanus booster every 10 years, but has the
pertussis vaccine in it also. It is available at the KPC Student Health
Clinic for $50 for eligible students who have paid their health center fee.
If a student is taking more than 6 credits at KPC, the health center fee
has been paid as part of registration fees. Local pharmacies also carry
the vaccine. Treatment includes azithromycin, clarithromycin or Bactrim antibiotics.
Despite a national rise in number of cases, Alaska's numbers remain
More than 17,000 cases of pertussis were reported in the nation
through July 12, according to the CDC. Nine pertussis-related deaths
about prevention and treatment of the pertussis infection. Feel free to
stop by or call the KPC Student Health Clinic at 262-0347 for more
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