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DAVIE COUNTY, N.C. – Pertussis – commonly known as whooping cough – is a serious bacteria. It causes spasms of severe coughing, which can cause those who have it to vomit and lose breath. In the worst cases, it can be deadly. In recent weeks, it made its way to two schools in Davie County.

The first case was reported on December 7. Today, the school system reported 13 confirmed cases, 11 in Davie High School, and two in the early college.

“That’s pretty alarming actually, it really is,” said Patrick Jacobs, father of a Davie High sophomore.

Whooping cough is highly contagious. According to the Davie County Health Department, “symptoms can develop 21 days after close contact (within three feet of or more than 15 minutes face-to-face) with a person having Pertussis.”

The following message – containing symptoms and information – was sent to parents of students at Davie High School:

“Pertussis begins with cold like symptoms and after a week or two the mild cough turns into severe coughing. The severe cough will come in spasms where the person cannot stop coughing and may lose their breath, vomit after coughing, or have a whooping sound when trying to breathe in at the end of the cough. If your child has any of these symptoms or develops these symptoms in the next 21 days, please keep them home from school and seek medical attention from a medical provider. Even if you child has been vaccinated with Tdap and they are symptomatic, they should see their medical provider.
Pertussis is treatable with antibiotics. Close contacts may need preventive treatment if they are at risk. Close contact is considered to be face to face (within 3 feet) for 15 minutes or longer. Risk factors include household contacts to a confirmed case, pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy, infants less than 12 months of age, persons with pre-existing health conditions at risk for severe illness or complications. If you have been a close contact with no symptoms or risks but you are in contact with at-risk people, you will need preventive treatment also.”

The spread of whooping cough is most easily prevented by receiving the DTaP shot. However – and this is particularly troubling – all 13 of the people confirmed to have Pertussis had gotten the vaccine.

“If it’s getting that bad, I think everybody should know, and know the risk, and know everything about it,” said Regina Hicks, mother of a Davie High senior.

This comes at a pivotal time for the residents of Davie County, because the students are now on Christmas break, which could be good or bad.

“I think it’s a good thing as far as controlling the spread in school, but it’s also a bad thing because you’ve got the relatives all coming together,” Jacobs said.

With relatives being in confined spaces, the students could spread it to the young and old.

From 2000 through 2014, there were 277 deaths from whooping cough reported in the United States, according to the CDC. Almost all of the deaths (241 of the 277) were babies younger than 3 months of age, who are too young to be protected against whooping cough by getting the shots.

In Davie County, there have been no confirmed cases of whooping cough outside of the two schools.