Public Health Declares Pertussis Outbreak

Lane County Public Health Declares Pertussis Outbreak: Urges Everyone to Make Sure They Are Up-to-Date on Pertussis Vaccinations

Following the identification of up to 12 cases of pertussis, also called Whooping Cough, at Sheldon High School, Lane County Public Health has opened up an outbreak investigation and is urging the community to check their whooping cough vaccination status.

“Given the high reproductive rate for pertussis (1 case can cause up to 16 new cases), this many cases in this short of time is especially troublesome,” said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Chief Health Officer for Lane County Public Health. “Fortunately, we have had great team effort with the school, now it’s time to ask our community members for help by practicing proper respiratory hygiene and getting vaccinated.” 

Pertussis is a serious and highly contagious infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis and is one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. Initial symptoms in older children and adults are similar to those of a cold, and commonly include a runny nose, sneezing and a severe cough.

Over the course of a few days, the cough will usually worsen and can be followed by spasms and occasionally vomiting. Infants commonly demonstrate more severe symptoms, which may include:

  • Gagging
  • Gasping
  • And a whooping sound when coughing

The duration of the infection can be up to two weeks with a debilitating cough for up to 90 days. Individuals exhibiting these symptoms are encouraged to refrain from contact with children, stay home from work or school for up to 21 days and seek medical attention. If a doctor prescribes antibiotics, this exclusion from work and school can be reduced to as little as 5 days.

Pertussis is particularly dangerous for children younger than 1 year of age. Most deaths occur in unvaccinated children or in children too young to be vaccinated who contract the disease from a family member. These family members may be unvaccinated or unaware that immunity from initial childhood vaccinations wanes after 5-10 years and thus have not received their booster.

As a result, it is critical that infants begin the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) immunization series on schedule and all family members receive the Tdap booster (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). The first three shots for infants are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. The fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given before a child enters school, at 4-6 years of age. DTaP and Tdap are covered by most health insurance plans and are readily available through a number of facilities including pharmacies. Individuals interested in receiving the vaccine or booster should contact their preferred health care provider.

Since the bacteria are typically spread by coughing or sneezing, it is also important that everyone practices proper respiratory hygiene. This includes covering your cough or sneeze, properly disposing of used tissue and frequently washing hands, even if you do not display symptoms.

For additional information on Pertussis, please visit:

Lane County Public Health is a division of Health & Human Services and is the local public health agency for Lane County. Its programs and services create a healthier and safer community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. Learn more about the work of Lane County Public Health and Health and Human Services at: