The Lewistown Public Schools would like to inform all parents that there have been two confirmed cases of Pertussis, a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough, in our schools.
Pertussis is a very contagious disease only found in humans and is spread from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 7–10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as 6 weeks.
Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include:
• Runny nose
• Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)
• Mild, occasional cough
• Apnea — a pause in breathing (in infants)
Because pertussis in its early stages appears to be nothing more than the common cold, it is often not suspected or diagnosed until the more severe symptoms appear. Infected people are most contagious up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.
As the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis appear and include:
• Paroxysms (fits) of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched "whoop"
• Vomiting (throwing up)
• Exhaustion (very tired) after coughing fits
Pertussis vaccines are very effective in protecting you from disease but no vaccine is 100% effective. If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this very contagious disease. If you have been vaccinated, the infection is usually less severe. If you or your child develops a cold that includes a severe cough or a cough that lasts for a long time, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your medical provider.
The Lewistown School District is working closely with the Central Montana Health District Public Health Nurses who have begun screening in our schools. They are available for questions at 406-535-3983. An information sheet is also accompanying this letter.
Please notify your building principal with questions or concerns. Thank you for your understanding.
Jason A. Butcher
Central Montana Health District
Public Health & Emergency Preparedness
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