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More whooping cough cases reported

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Hudson’s Bay High School is the latest Clark County school to send letters home to parents after health officials confirmed cases of whooping cough.

This week, Clark County Public Health confirmed two cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, at the Vancouver high school. Hudson’s Bay is the eighth local school since Oct. 1 to have identified cases of whooping cough, according to Clark County Public Health.

Earlier this week, health officials confirmed multiple cases of whooping cough at Mountain View High School dating back to November. So far this year, nine cases have been reported at the east Vancouver school.

Six other local schools each have one confirmed case of whooping cough: Mount Pleasant School, Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, Riverview Elementary School, Union High School, Minnehaha Elementary School and Cascadia Technical Academy. Two Clark County residents at a Portland private school are also among the local cases of whooping cough.

Clark County typically has nine to 16 cases of whooping cough each month. In November, four cases were reported locally. Health officials have recorded 20 cases so far this month.

Despite the uptick this month, health officials say the total is far below numbers seen during outbreaks. This year, Clark County has identified 85 cases. During the outbreak years of 2012 and 2015, the county had 361 and 364 cases, respectively.

“So while we’re seeing more cases than usual right now, as a whole, 2017 hasn’t had too much more activity than last year,” Madison Riethman, epidemiologist with Clark County Public Health, said in an email.

Part of the increase this month may also be attributed to heightened awareness, according to health officials.

When whooping cough is identified in school-aged kids, the health department recommends the school send informational letters home to parents, alerting them that the virus is circulating. Doing so may make parents more likely to take their kids to see a physician if they develop symptoms.

“In other words, elevated numbers may be an indicator that actions by public health and the schools are working,” Riethman said. “By raising awareness of pertussis, we may be finding more cases as a result.”

In the first few weeks, whooping cough symptoms are similar to those of a cold, such as a runny nose, low-grade fever and mild cough. As the disease progresses, however, people with whooping cough may experience coughing fits, followed by a “whooping” noise, vomiting and difficulty catching their breath.

Whooping cough symptoms usually appear within seven to 10 days of exposure, but may take as long as three weeks to begin.