ALERT: Whooping Cough Spreads Among Vaccinated Students in US Schools

Whooping cough outbreaks in US
Whooping cough outbreaks in US. Credit | Shutterstock

United States: Outbreaks of pertussis, or whooping cough, have been reported among the students attending the Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, a Catholic high school at Ellis and Franklin Streets in San Francisco, the county health department noted.

The Public Health Department in San Francisco reported on March 6th that 13 cases of whooping cough were already confirmed, two in the month of January, five in February and six in March.

The majority of the students who have caught this illness happened to be fully vaccinated teens and their close contacts, and there has been no mention of the presence of serious cases, hospitalizations, or deaths. Evidence of San Francisco having experienced intra-community transmission at the level of whole districts is non-existent as well.

The health department stated, “We have been working closely with the school’s administrators to notify, inform, and educate the campus community about pertussis,” as San Francisco Chronicles reported.

More about Whooping cough

Pertussis (whooping cough), a dreadful respiratory disease that may lead to death in infant children (the group that doctors deal with on a priority basis because they are too young to get vaccinated), originated due to the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

This illness may lead to fits of coughing among older children, teenagers, or adults, who can suffer from this cough for several months at a time.

Prevalence of disease among vulnerable

Visual Representation of Whooping Cough. Credit | Shutterstock

Dr. Paul Katz, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael, stated, “Pertussis immunity is relative, not absolute,” and, “So if you’re exposed a lot, you’re more likely to get pertussis even though you have some immunity. If one kid, say, on a sports team has it, it will spread throughout the group.”

According to San Francisco Chronicles reports, Dr. George Rutherford, a UCSF pediatrician and epidemiologist, said that older children, teens, and adults who have been administered vaccine shots get milder shots of whooping cough than infants, but it “is a miserable disease to have as an adult, and it can persist for quite a while,” and also called the recent clusters “the edge of worrisome.”

Rising cases of the disease

Over the past decades, a periodic resurgence of whooping cough appeared, with big time peaks observed in 2018 and 2019, consisting of 2300 and 3200 reported cases in California, respectively, according to the Government agency’s statistics.

In 2023, California showed 640 measles cases, whereas just now, the number is 180.

For the Bay Area, the vast majority of students were sheltering in place or in virtual classes when the pandemic hit in 2020 and 2021, thus there wasn’t a significant big bump in the area in those years, just an increase that might happen now and only late enough.

Katz added, “You can’t have spread if you’re not together,” and, “Shelter in place blunted what we would’ve expected.”