Health authorities in Clackamas County have sent out warnings as cases of whooping cough have increased over the last year.
The county confirmed more than 60 cases since July, which is more cases than over the past five years. Most cases in 2019 occurred in November and December among school-aged children.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, spreads easily through coughs and sneezes, with symptoms developing within five to 10 days after exposure. Symptoms include severe coughing, whooping, vomiting and exhaustion. County health authorities warn whooping cough in unvaccinated babies can be life-threatening.
Nineteen schools in the county had students attend classes while contagious this year, with cases showing up in eight preschools and elementary schools, two middle schools and nine high schools. The highest number of confirmed cases were in West Linn, Molalla and Lake Oswego area high schools.
Clackamas County health officer Dr. Sarah Present said in a statement that families should ensure their kids are up-to-date on their vaccines.
“During winter break when kids are at home is a great time to schedule doctor visits to make sure everyone’s shots and immunization records are current,” Present said.
Present recommends parents and guardians get their kids vaccinated ahead of the annual school exclusion date when children can be sent home for not having up-to-date immunization records.
This school year’s exclusion date will be Feb. 19. Children can hold exemptions if they have a medical or personal belief.
Oregon’s House of Representatives approved a bill earlier this year that would have made the state’s vaccine laws stricter in the wake of a measles outbreak. Under the bill, parents could have still obtained exemptions for medical reasons, but not for religious or philosophical reasons.
The bill was ultimately dropped by state Senate Democrats in an effort to end a Republican walkout late in the 2019 legislative session.
According to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, those who receive the pertussis vaccine prior to exposure to the disease recover quicker. Boosters are highly recommended for preteens, as well as pregnant women.
“While the vaccination works, immunity wanes over time,” Present said.
Health officials say that anyone who is experiencing symptoms should stay home and see a doctor in order to prevent the spread of whooping cough in the community.