Camden County Health Department investigating two cases of whooping cough in Cherry Hill

The Camden County Health Department is currently investigating several cases of Pertussis (or whooping cough) in two separate schools in Cherry Hill Township. Richard Stockton Elementary School has two confirmed cases in one classroom. Joyce Kilmer Elementary School has a confirmed case and a probable case in a different classroom.

At this time, there is no known connection between the illnesses at the two separate schools.

“The Camden County Health Department will continue to monitor the situation, and provide information and guidelines if needed or requested to parents and school administrators in Cherry Hill,” said Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the Camden County Health Department. “As part of the ongoing investigation, the Camden County Health Department will remain in contact with the state health officials, Cherry Hill Township officials and the families and physicians of the suspect cases.”

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a bacterium that lives in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person. Although pertussis can occur in people of all ages, it is most severe in infants less than a year old.

Older children and adults can also get pertussis, but their symptoms are usually not as serious.

“Getting vaccinated against Pertussis is the best protection against the disease,” said Rodriguez. “Although a person may have been vaccinated as a young child, protection decreases over time. The Tdap vaccine booster is available for older children and adults.”

The first symptoms of Pertussis are like the common cold and include sneezing, coughing, runny nose and fever. However, within two weeks, the cough becomes more serious. Episodes of rapid uncontrollable coughing spasms can be followed by a high pitched “whoop” sound when the person tries to take a breath. The coughing spasm may also be accompanied by gagging and vomiting. These coughing spells can make breathing, eating and sleeping difficult.

A final recovery stage with coughing may last weeks or months.

Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics.

A person’s risk of spreading the disease to others drops five days after the start of antibiotic therapy.

Serious complications such as pneumonia and other medical problems can result among all age groups due to pertussis infection. Although deaths related to pertussis are rare, they do occur more frequently among unvaccinated infants. Up to approximately 30 percent of those with Pertussis require hospitalization, and about 70 percent of these are infants under 6 months of age.

“The Camden County Health Department’s Communicable Disease unit has been in routine communication with New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services since the first reported case. Disease information has been provided to the school for distribution,” said Freeholder Rodriguez. “Protecting the health and welfare of the public remains the primary mission of the Camden County Health Department.”