Whooping Cough Has Officials On High Alert At Bethel Park High School

woman coughing
Photo credit Getty

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - A case of whooping cough at Bethel Park High School has officials on alert.

 A letter sent to guardians warned of possible exposure to the highly contagious bacterial infection, and are encouraging students to keep an eye out for a cough in the coming weeks.

The school is also encouraging families to get the T-DAP vaccine booster that protects against pertussis.

The Allegheny County Health Department is investigating.

School Principal Dr. Zeb. Jansante sent out the following email last Friday.

Dear Parents and Guardians:

This letter is to inform you that your son/daughter may have been exposed to whooping cough at Bethel Park High School. 

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a very contagious bacterial infection that can spread through close contact when people with the disease cough. Symptoms can appear 5 to 21 days after infection. It usually starts like a common cold (e.g., sneezing, runny nose, etc.) followed by a cough that gets worse over one to two weeks.  People with whooping cough may have coughing spells in which they can’t catch their breath between coughs. Some may loudly gasp (“whoop”) and vomit or feel like they’re choking. There is usually no fever with whooping cough.

In general, the whooping cough vaccines are very effective in either preventing disease or decreasing its severity soon after receiving the vaccine series or booster dose. However, immunity from vaccination wanes quickly over time, so even children who have been fully vaccinated can get whooping cough.

A booster dose of vaccine (Tdap) is recommended in middle school at ages 11-12 years and required for 7th grade entry in Pennsylvania. It is also recommended for adults, especially pregnant women (with each pregnancy) and caregivers of young infants.  If you or your older children haven’t had Tdap, make sure to get it now. The Tdap vaccine is widely available at doctor’s offices, some pharmacies and local health departments and is generally covered by most insurance plans.

If your son/daughter has cold symptoms and is coughing, please contact your doctor. Tell the doctor that one confirmed case of whooping cough has been reported in your son/daughter’s school. If your son/daughter has been seen by their doctor and whooping cough was diagnosed, please keep them at home until they have completed 5 days of the prescribed antibiotic treatment. The most accurate test for diagnosing whooping cough is collected using a nasal swab.

The Allegheny County Health Department will continue to investigate the situation. If you or your doctor has any questions, please call the Bethel Park High School Health office at 412-854-8550.

___Follow KDKA Radio: Facebook | Twitter | InstagramListen to KDKA Radio on the Radio.com App - Download Now