Okanogan County Public Health confirmed two cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in the Methow Valley two weeks ago, one at Methow Valley Elementary School. The department has not said whether the cases are in an adult or child, but confirmed that they are in the same family, Okanogan County Community Health Director Lauri Jones said.
Health care providers are always wary about the potential for a spread of pertussis, which can be serious, but these cases appear to be contained, Jones said. There were no other cases in the county.
Adriana Vanbianchi, the Methow Valley School District nurse, sent a letter to elementary school families alerting them to the situation and advising them to watch for symptoms that include a cough. The cough typically worsens and sounds like a series of rapid coughs followed by an air-sucking noise, she said.
The two people diagnosed with pertussis had traveled out of state over the holiday season and, after they got home, learned they had been exposed to the disease, Jones said. They hadn’t been immunized. “They knew what to look for and got medical help and didn’t see other people,” Jones said.
“I applaud their efforts to keep themselves isolated because they understand the risk they pose to others,” she said, noting that exposures during a pertussis outbreak in the winter of 2018-19 had been very difficult to track.
Pertussis poses a particular risk to infants, who are too young to be immunized and can develop severe, potentially deadly, disease because their lungs aren’t fully developed. Children need a series of vaccines and older children and adults need a booster, Vanbianchi said.
Pertussis has a long incubation period and is not contagious until someone starts coughing.