Another case of highly contagious pertussis, or whooping cough, was reported at Apex High School on Monday, according to Wake County school system officials.
It’s the third reported case in about a month at the high school.
The school system notified parents on Monday and said it was working with county health officials and following state health protocols.
“Some students and staff at your child’s school may have been around a person who has pertussis,” the letter to parents read.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium bordetella pertussis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria attach to the cilia (tiny, hair-like extensions) that line the upper respiratory system. The bacteria then release toxins that damage the cilia and cause airways to swell.
Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing that often makes it hard to breathe. After coughing fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for children less than a year old.
People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near others. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
Infected people are most contagious up to about two weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.
The best way to protect against pertussis is to be vaccinated.
While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent the disease, no vaccine is 100 effective effective. When pertussis circulates in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease. If you have gotten the pertussis vaccine but still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.
Some families choose not to vaccinate their against pertussis and other illnesses. In North Carolina, the number of kindergarteners opting out of required childhood vaccinations on religious grounds more than doubled in the five school years from 2012 to 2016.
For more information on getting vaccinated, go to www.cdc.gov/pertussis/vaccines.html.