CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s not COVID, it’s not the flu, it’s not RSV. Instead, Carlisle High School is seeing rising cases of whooping cough.
One doctor says this outbreak is unusual. Young kids are the ones who usually get whooping cough, and they are also the ones most at risk of getting seriously sick. High school students? Not so much, but this could be a sign of a larger problem.
“Pertussis is unusual. I haven’t seen a pertussis outbreak around here for a long time,” Dr. John Goldman, UPMC infectious disease specialist, said.
But there is one in Carlisle High School — a pertussis outbreak (pertussis is more commonly known as whooping cough). The school district says there are 10 confirmed cases.
Whooping cough starts with cold symptoms and eventually progresses to coughing fits.
“They usually end with a deep inspiration which causes a whoop,” Goldman said. “Sometimes people actually throw up.”
Goldman said high school cases are unusual because the disease is more common in young kids.
“You wonder if the people who got it were vaccinated, you wonder if they would be up to date on their vaccination,” he said.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, children should regularly be vaccinated against whooping cough multiple times until they reach school age. Older children and adults should get a booster as well as pregnant women.
If you get whooping cough, Goldman said to isolate and stay home until you are done with antibiotic treatment, which he said usually takes five days.
In an email to families, Carlisle Superintendent Colleen Friend said students considered close contacts are being notified, the district is increasing cleaning efforts and is following directions from the Department of Health.
However, Goldman said this outbreak could be because of a larger trend: People simply are not getting vaccinated. He pointed to not just the whooping cough outbreak, but a recent spike in polio cases in New York.
“The downside of people not getting the vaccine is we see old illnesses come back, so I think this just illustrates the importance of keeping up with bread and butter, routine, childhood vaccinations,” he said.
Goldman tells me said if you have any symptoms of a virus you should stay home, but if you or someone in your household goes to Carlisle High School, it is worth getting tested for whooping cough.