ShareThis Page

5 Penn-Trafford students treated for whooping cough

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Five students in the Penn-Trafford School District were treated last month for pertussis — which is commonly known as whooping cough — in some of the earliest cases of the contagious disease in Westmoreland County so far this year.

Administrators confirmed four cases at the high school and one case at the joint elementary and middle school in Trafford, Superintendent Thomas Butler said last week.

District officials sent letters from the state Department of Health to parents to alert them that their children might have been exposed to the disease, which is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“Pertussis does show cyclical activity, but this activity serves as a great reminder toward the importance of staying up-to-date on vaccinations, as pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease,” Kait Gillis, deputy press secretary for the health department, said in an email.

Nationwide, pertussis cases in 2012 skyrocketed to almost 42,000, the most since nearly 63,000 cases were reported in 1955, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

A final count of 2012 cases won't be available until mid-year.

Even at the tentative tally, the cases in 2012 represented at least a 48-percent increase from 2010, during the last spike in cases. In Westmoreland County, state officials identified 53 cases last year, Gillis said.

Stacey Martin, a CDC epidemiologist, attributed the recent rise in cases to better reporting by individuals and better diagnostics by health officials. But she also noted a wane in the effectiveness of a vaccine as time passes.

After five years, only 70 percent of vaccine recipients are fully protected from the contagious disease, Martin said. Health officials are recording a lot of cases in children between the ages of 7 and 10, she said.

Infected children who are taking antibiotics typically may return to school after five days, Martin said.

Though the disease can be fatal for some infants, it generally is mainly uncomfortable for older children and adults.

Martin said many countries refer to pertussis as “the 100-day cough.”

“Some adults get broken ribs from the coughing,” she said. “That's how hard you cough.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.