Pertussis Advisory

This is to advise you that a person connected to North Shore Community College was diagnosed with whooping cough (pertussis) this semester. Although you have not been identified as a close contact, it is important that you be aware of the signs and symptoms of pertussis.

What is pertussis?  Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is a contagious disease caused by bacteria that spreads from person to person with close contact. Although adolescents and adults may have a mild cough illness with pertussis, the disease can cause serious problems in very young children or infants.

What are the symptoms?  Pertussis usually begins with cold-like symptoms, a runny nose, sneezing and dry cough. The cough persists for a week or two, then slowly gets worse.  The next stage, which may last from four to six weeks, is marked by uncontrollable coughing spells, often followed by vomiting. Between spells, the person may appear to be well and usually there is no fever. Vaccinated children, teens and adults may have milder symptoms that can seem like bronchitis. 

How is pertussis spread?  The germs that cause pertussis live in the nose, mouth and throat and are sprayed into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks. Other people can then inhale the germs in the droplets produced by the person with pertussis. The first symptoms usually appear 7 to 10 days after a person is exposed, although some people may develop a cough up to 21 days after their last exposure.

How is pertussis diagnosed?  A doctor may suspect that a patient has pertussis based on their symptoms, however, a culture or blood test are the only ways to be sure. The culture is taken by swab from the back of the nose if the patient has been coughing for two weeks or less. The blood test is taken when the cough has persisted for longer than two weeks.

How can pertussis be prevented?  Although childhood immunizations against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis usually provide adequate protection against pertussis, the effects of the vaccine wear off over time, leaving most teens and adults at risk of the disease. Antibiotics are used to treat pertussis and given to close contacts to help prevent further illness and decrease infectiousness. Also, for anyone under the age of 65, MDPH recommends a one-time adult dose of Tdap to boost immunity against the disease.

What should I do?  If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of pertussis, you should contact your health care provider and mention this letter. 

For further information, contact your local Board of Health or MDPH website at                                                                                             

The NSCC Emergency Response Team has been closely monitoring the Covid-19 developments and are meeting early next week to review college prevention and containment plans and provide additional information. In the meantime, please follow the CDC advice as found at this link:


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