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Posted on Sat, May 18, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

Washtenaw County Health Departments issues whooping cough prevention tips after possible student exposure

By Cole Bertsos

Editor's note: A clarification has been added to this story to clarify who is advised to seek antibiotics.

The Washtenaw County Health Department emailed parents of Ann Arbor Public Schools students Friday who may have been exposed to whooping cough with recommended actions to prevent the disease from spreading.

Reports on Friday indicated at least five Pioneer High School students have the disease. Updated information was not available Saturday.


File photo showing a young man receiving a whooping cough vaccination.

Jae C. Hong | The Associated Press

The email was only sent to those in the area that the health department believed were exposed to the disease.

The release said the main hope for educating people about prevention of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, was to keep individuals at high risk of complications from the disease protected and to break the chain of the disease throughout the community.

Included in the release were several tips to help carry out the department's objectives.

People of all ages are advised by the health department to call their physician if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Unusual cough lasting 7 days or more (with or without the signature "whooping" sound)
  • Sporadic bursts of coughing
  • Coughing-induced vomitting

Regardless of whether individuals have received a whooping cough vaccination, anyone who has come into close contact — which includes face-to-face exposure, being within three feet of a known case of pertussis, or direct contact with their respiratory, oral or nasal secretions — is encouraged to be put on antibiotics to treat a possible case of the disease.

The health department is also suggesting antibiotics for individuals exposed to the disease in the following categories:

  • All children sharing a childcare classroom with a preschool child who has pertussis
  • Anyone sharing a classroom or work space with someone with the disease
  • Infants less than 1 year old exposed to pertussis
  • Pregnant women exposed to the disease
  • People living with or working with infants and pregnant women who have been exposed to the disease
  • Immune-compromised people (those on chemotherapy or other drugs that affect one's immune system) who have been exposed
  • Anyone with a chronic respiratory disease, including asthma, who has been exposed

Anyone experiencing cold-like respiratory symptoms and have been exposed to a person with pertussis are advised to stay home from school and work until they have completed at least five days of antibiotics.

The health department also recommends parents and faculty review the immunization status of all students and staff and remember that no vaccine is 100 percent effective, and those vaccinated are still susceptible to modified forms of the disease.


G. Orwell

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

@seldon Reuters Vaccinated children coming down with whooping cough.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 10:38 a.m.

A victory for the anti-vaccination movement! Soon, all the childhood diseases will return in force!

G. Orwell

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

Do not inject yourself or your family with foreign substances. Rather, strengthen your immune system naturally by eating well, supplement with high potency vitamins and exercise. If you do, you will likely never get sick. There is mounting evidence that the children that received the pertussis vaccines are the ones coming down with the whopping cough and infecting others.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 10:40 a.m.

Really? Show us some. Because whooping cough was pretty much gone until Wakefield's fraudulent "science" encouraged people who hold those views to stop vaccinating their kids.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

They say once you have it you are suppose to be immune to it and it can recur. Ours got it every year and the doc said nothing you can do about it even it you do get the vaccine. Which is why I did not finish the chicken pox vaccine because ours got it after the first shot. Go figure. Government propaganda in its finest. Now we wonder why our children get sick after they get a shot? That is why.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

The preventative measure is to get vaccinated. For adults, it's included in the newer tetanus (Td) boosters. If you haven't had a tetanus booster in the past three years, you should probably ask if your last tetanus booster included a pertussis vaccine. For infants, you can request an accelerated DTAP series from your pediatrician so that they gain some protection early in their first year. Washtenaw County suffered pertusiss epidemic outbreaks in 2009 and 2010 including deaths from pertusiss. Rates have declined in the past two years.

Ann E.

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 4 p.m.

This is prime allergy season and for those who normally have asthmatic symptoms this time of year, how do we know what is whooping cough and what is "normal" coughing?

Ann E.

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

Thank you, JK.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

It has a very distinct sound. Just google YouTube and whooping cough.

Linda Peck

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

I was looking for preventative maneuvers, but only saw the antibiotics as a choice.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

Keep them home or send them to school, nothing you can do once they have it.

West Side Mom

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Complying with the guidelines is tough when the information from the schools is so vague. I get there a privacy concerns but something more than "a student in the school" level of information would be more useful and effective at combating infections.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

The health department is seriously recommending antibiotics for all pregnant women and anyone with a chronic respiratory disease? That sounds like either overkill or wrong information.

Washtenaw County Public Health

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

The information above is not completely accurate. We have contacted the reporter to ask for clarification. Antibiotics are only recommended for persons with these conditions if they have been exposed to Pertussis. For example if they had close contact with an ill person, or if they had more casual contact, such as sharing classroom or work space. For more information visit, or see our fact sheet - Susan Cerniglia Washtenaw County Public Health


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

This is why antibiotics don't work. It is over kill.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 4:04 a.m.

I wonder if any of the confirmed cases were kids that had been vaccinated.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:26 a.m.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:26 a.m.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:24 a.m.

I have students at Pioneer and Slauson and we have received phone calls and emails from both schools. There are five cases at Pioneer and one at Slauson.

West Side Mom

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

There is at least one case at Forsythe. An email went home to parents end of last week.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:21 a.m.

Pertussis has been steadily increasing in the number of cases over the past few years. Young children and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk for complications. The vaccine is readily available as Tdap (a combination of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) at physician's offices and pharmacies.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 10:36 p.m.

I try to avoid that stuff. The body needs to build immunities not rush to the doc for every symptom. I didn't. Mine is healthy as a horse.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 1:36 a.m.

Channel 4 ran a story on this the other day and said there were 5 confirmed cases at Pioneer.


Sat, May 18, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

"The email" was only sent to those affected. Sorry, Pertussis travels faster than the internet!


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

According to a 2004 study by Stevens and Crabtree, the internet could win this race with some of its best bits tied behind its back.