Many think of pertussis, better known as "whooping cough," as a disease from a bygone era, eradicated with the introduction of the vaccine back in the 1940's. Not only is it still around, it is on the rise.
This year alone, more than 6,000 Californians have been infected by the illness, making it the worst outbreak this state has seen in 60 years, according to the California Department of Health.
"There are children out there not getting the proper inoculations, whether due to moral or religious reasons, and as a result, the disease continues to spread," said Alice Garcia, a nurse with the Las Virgenes Unified School District.
Garcia said many parents have been fearful of a speculated link between the vaccine and autism. "Studies have been done and found no connection between the two," she said.
Though most dangerous in infants, the illness, a bacterial infection, can affect older children, even if they have been vaccinated.
"This disease is highly contagious and is easily spread face-to-face through coughing or sneezing. In addition, we are finding that the vaccines are only effective for ten years," Garcia said.
She offers symptoms for which to be mindful. In older kids, it begins like a common cold and cough; however, if the cough lasts more than 7 to 10 days, it is advised to see a pediatrician, according to Garcia.
Treatment for the disease is a five-day course of antibiotics. "The doctor will test the child by swabbing the inside of the nose. If it's suspected, further testing will be done," said Garcia. "Children are only allowed back to school once they have completed the proper course of medication."
Because of this particularly virulent outbreak, the school district requires all students entering 7th through 11th grades in the 2011 school year to receive their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) booster shots.
Visit the LVUSD website for more information.