Ogilvie School Health Office
Carmel Stafford, CMA
320-272-5050 ext. 102
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection spread through coughing and sneezing. Milder symptoms, which mimic those of a cold, are increasing among school children. Adults, who often have less severe symptoms, may not realize that they have the infection, and can spread it to others.
Signs & Symptoms
Many of the first symptoms of pertussis can be easily mistaken for the common cold. These symptoms include:
- A runny nose
- Low-grade fever
- A mild, occasional cough
These symptoms appear an average of 7-10 days after someone has been exposed to the bacteria.
The symptoms may last up to two weeks and then progress to severe coughing fits, particularly at night. "Whooping" sounds are made as sufferers try to breathe in during or after the coughing fit. Vomiting after coughing may also occur. The cough associated with pertussis usually lasts several weeks. The good news is that pertussis is treatable with antibiotics once diagnosed.
Pertussis & School
Children diagnosed with pertussis should not return to school without first seeking the approval of their physician, due to the communicable nature of the disease. In recent outbreaks, it was shown that adolescents and older children carried the disease because the milder form they often suffered from was hard to recognize as pertussis.
Pertussis is typically most contagious during the first two to three weeks of infection, often before severe coughing fits begin. It is caused by bacteria in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person and can be spread through close talking, coughing or sneezing.
What is meningitis?
Meningococcal meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is usually caused by bacteria or viruses.
What is the difference between bacterial and viral meningitis?
Many of the bacteria or viruses that can cause meningitis are fairly common and are more often associated with other everyday illnesses. Sometimes, however, they spread to the meninges from an infection in another part of the body. The infection can start anywhere, including in the skin, gastrointestinal tract, or urinary system, but the most common source is the respiratory tract. From there the microorganisms can enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and enter the central nervous system. In some cases of bacterial meningitis, the bacteria spread directly to the meninges from a severe nearby infection, such as a serious ear infection or nasal sinus infection.
Viral Meningitis is relatively common and far less serious than bacterial meningitis. It often remains undiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of the common flu. The frequency of viral meningitis increases slightly in the summer and fall months because people are more often exposed to common viral agents during those seasons.
Bacterial Meningitis occurs in people of all ages but is more common in the very young (infants and young children) and the elderly (people above age 60). Teenagers and college students are also slightly more at risk for the disease because of time spent in close contact with many of their peers.
Bacterial meningitis is less common than viral meningitis but is usually much more serious and can be life-threatening, if not treated promptly.
How do I know if my child has meningitis?
Meningitis must be diagnosed by a physician. A physical examination will reveal low blood pressure, fast heart rate, stiff neck, and a possible rash.
If you or your child notice potential symptoms of meningitis, if symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment, or if you think they have been exposed to someone with meningitis, go to the emergency room immediately. Meningitis can quickly become life-threatening and it’s not worth taking any chances.
How is meningitis treated?
Early diagnosis and treatment is extremely important to prevent serious illness or death. Antibiotics such as ceftriaxone are prescribed and given by an IV (intravenous line). Other medicines may be used to treat the complications due to increased spinal fluid pressure.
- Rash, pinpoint red spots (petechiae)
- Purple, bruise-like areas (purpura)
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Severe malaise (general ill feeling)
- Stiff neck
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Mental status changes
Talk with your health care practitioner to learn more.
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