ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — The total number of confirmed whooping cough cases at an Alamance County elementary school has increased to seven.
All the cases come from B. Everett Jordan Elementary School, said Dr. Kathleen Shapley-Quinn, Alamance County medical director, on Thursday.
Besides the confirmed cases, there are nine more suspected cases, Shapley-Quinn said.
Alamance County School System officials first announced three confirmed cases in a news release Wednesday. The first case was confirmed on Dec. 21.
It’s not yet clear how whooping cough, or pertussis, got into the school, Shapley-Quinn said. However, none of the students at the school were given exemptions for vaccinations.
“A lot of people might think that the reason there’s a pertussis outbreak is that children haven’t been vaccinated appropriately. In fact, 100 percent of the children in B. Everettt Jordan have been vaccinated,” Shapley-Quinn said.
It’s unclear if all the adults working at the school were vaccinated, Shapley-Quinn said.
Since the vaccine is only 88 percent effective, all students and staff were given prescription antibiotics to further decrease the chance of contracting pertussis.
“We very much value the vaccine. It decreases the intensity of the disease even if you do get pertussis,” Shapley-Quinn said.
Pertussis is a bacterial infection that often starts with typical cold symptoms before turning into prolonged bursts of coughing, which sounds like whooping, in one or two weeks. Some may simply have a cough that lasts for several weeks.
Younger children are at the most risk for pertussis, especially those less than a year old. They often go to the hospital and can stop breathing after their coughing spells, Shapley-Quinn said.
While pertussis is less risky for adults, Shapley-Quinn said adults should get vaccinated as well.
State health officials said there were two confirmed pertussis cases in Alamance County between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30. December numbers are not yet available, state health officials said.
There were four confirmed cases in Guilford County and none in Randolph County during that same time period.