Whooping Cough, Flu Making the Rounds


This week parents with children at Crescenta Valley High School were notified there had been a case of Pertussis, or whooping cough, reported at the school.

“There is one [case] that has been diagnosed and two to three other [students] who, upon receiving the letter from CVHS, went to the doctors and told us their [student] may have [whooping cough],” said Linda Burlinson, Glendale Unified School District health coordinator.

The district has not heard from those students to confirm the other cases however. Burlinson said that although students may have been immunized for Pertussis there are occasionally cases that occur.

“Pertussis is a contagious disease that can spread when a person coughs or sneezes. It usually starts like a cold and gets worse. People with Pertussis have coughing attacks that may last for several seconds. As the person catches his or her breath at the end of each coughing attack, they may make a ‘whoop’ sound, vomit or choke,” according to the letter sent to parents.

The letter also stated the precautions the school is taking include asking parents to take their child to see his or her doctor if the student has symptoms. Parents are asked to inform their doctor that Pertussis has been reported at the school. If the child is diagnosed with Pertussis they must take at least five days of antibiotics before returning to school. The letter continues by recommending that a child takes antibiotics, after speaking with their doctor, if the child has an underlying medical condition that can get worse with Pertussis or the child dose not have all the recommended vaccines against whooping cough.

Pertussis is not the only health issue facing schools. The flu and cold seems to have hit the area hard with kids, and adults, missing school and work.

“Right now there are definitely a variety of health issues,” said Scott Anderlie, director of Student Support Services.

Anderlie added that eight out of the 20 people in his office recently fell victim to the cold that is going around.

“There is something going around with a cough and low fever,” Burlinson added.

Burlinson advised students, and adults, by encouraging healthy behavior that includes eating health foods, drinking fluids, being aware of those who are around them and to practice good hygiene.

The flu has hit the area’s doctor offices hard as well. Dr. John Rodarte, a pediatrician with an office in La Cañada Flintridge, said this week’s flu cases have been lighter than last but cases are still coming in.

“We are seeing a ton of flu [cases],” he said. “It has been a busy year with Influenza A. That was not in this year’s flu vaccination.”

The flu vaccine that many received prior to flu season did not cover the strains both “A” and “B” that are now plaguing people throughout L.A. County and the nation.

Rodarte said with this strain of flu a person would run a high fever that can last from five to seven days with body aches and that some people experience sore throats and stomach aches as well.

If the flu is caught earlier, within the first 48 hours, then an over-the-counter flu medication may help, but for the most part, Rodarte said, flu sufferers are just in for some uncomfortable days.

“The biggest complications with [the flu] is pneumonia,” he said.
“If the fever goes away for 24 hours and then comes back and a cough that makes [a person] short of breath, you need to get re-checked by your doctor.”

For the Pertussis that is going through CVHS, Rodarte said whooping cough occurs throughout L.A. County but at times it will affect clusters like those presently at the school.

“What you are looking for [as symptoms] … is a coughing cold that is so severe that [a person] will have long spasms of a cough. You cough so long you lose your breath,” he said.

Pertussis starts like a cold for the first week but then, on the second week, there is a cough that lingers.

He advises patients be tested if the person experiences a lingering cough that becomes severe.

Another health issue that doctors, and schools, are keeping a close eye on is the measles.

Although the first cases reportedly originated at Disneyland, it quickly spread to schools and daycares throughout Orange County.

Anderlie said they have not received any reports of measles at CVHS or other schools in the Glendale district but are preparing for any cases that may be reported.

“There have been three cases of the measles reported in Pasadena, one came from my office,” Rodarte said.

He added if a child has not been vaccinated for measles they are at risk. If a child has been vaccinated, the antibodies will protect against the disease.

“Children get their first [vaccination] when they are 12 to 15 months old, then the second shot when they are 4 to 6 years old,” he said. “The youngest kids, under a year, those are the ones you have to be most concerned about.”

For those very young, he advised to limit the child’s exposure to others.

The symptoms for measles start much like the flu.

“It starts with a high fever, up to 104 degrees. A cough and runny nose like many other [colds and flus], then there are watery, red eyes and a rash that [usually] starts on the face,” he said.

A person can have measles and be contagious four days prior to the red rash showing.

The advice by those at GUSD and by Rodarte is to be health wise. Cover your mouth when you cough, be aware of those who are sick around you, stay home if you are sick and go to a doctor if you have any concerns.