‘It’s intense. It’s harsh’: Spokane County sees high number of pertussis cases

Spokane Public Schools and the Spokane Regional Health District are informing parents about the seriousness of whooping cough amid an increase in recent cases reported throughout Spokane County.

In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, the school district said there have been more cases of pertussis than usual in recent months, some of which were reported within the district.

Typically, one to four cases are reported in Spokane County each month, the Spokane Regional Health District said. Since November 51 cases have been reported.

Of those cases, two-thirds were reported in school-aged children across school districts in the county. This is also an unusual time of the year for a high number of pertussis cases. SRHD said more cases are typically reported in the spring and summer as opposed to the fall and winter time.

“We’ve had single cases in about 10 schools,” said Brian Coddington, a spokesperson with the district. “Three of them were siblings at different schools.”

Coddington added that the school district has taken steps to disinfect and deep clean the schools.

The cough is a sound that makes you want to cringe. Justine Brockie said her son has been coughing uncontrollably for the last few nights.

“It’s intense. It’s harsh. He was coughing so much, his stomach muscles, after the third day, he said ‘I feel like I have, I’ve done a million sit ups, Mom,'” Brockie explained.

When it comes to diagnosing pertussis, the SRHD says its symptoms are similar to a common cold, complete with a runny nose and cough, only the cough worsens over a 2 to 3 week period.

The illness is oftentimes called whooping cough due to coughing spasms or fits, typically accompanied by a “whooping” sound.

“It’s been real tiring, it’s a lot. I don’t wish it for nobody,” Brockie said.

Brockie’s son is one of the other 50 cases that were reported to the health district. SRHD said they are investigating 14 more cases.

“It’s not something you really think as a 16-year-old… I worried when he was a baby about it, more than you think about it now,” Brockie said.

Because pertussis is highly contagious, the SRHD says the best way to prevent it is to keep your children up-to-date on vaccinations and have good hygiene.

The Washington State Department of Health said in the state, about 9 percent of students in kindergarten for the 2018/2019 school year did not get their whooping cough vaccine. In Spokane County, that number was 12.5 percent.

Keep in mind, this vaccination is not part of the personal exemption under Washington State Law.

“Just be aware of those symptoms, and if your child develops a cough that’s not just a typical cold type symptom, get them evaluated,” said Betsy Bertelsen, an epidemiologist with SRHD. “Especially if you know there’s been cases in your child’s school.”

If your child is diagnosed, SRHD suggests having them treated with antibiotics and that they stay home until they’re no longer contagious.

“Just know your momma gut, just know, really, your kiddo,” Brockie added.

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