Pertussis Awareness

(May 3, 2018) The University of Oregon Health Center has confirmed pertussis (whooping cough) on campus. There also are multiple confirmed cases of pertussis in the Eugene community.

About Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

  • Pertussis is an acute respiratory tract infection caused by bacteria that presents as a chronic cough in most patients. In adolescents and adults, the chronic cough associated with pertussis can last up to six weeks (occasionally longer).
  • The best way to protect against pertussis is through vaccination. The tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is a required vaccine at the University of Oregon and many students have received it.
  • Occasionally, even those who have been appropriately vaccinated with Tdap may still become ill, though not necessarily as severely.
  • The most at-risk individuals are pregnant women, infants under one year of age, those who live in the same household as someone with pertussis, and individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions.
  • Pertussis is contagious.
    • Pertussis cases are most contagious for the first two weeks of illness (when cases have cold‐like symptoms), and at the beginning of the coughing phase. Thereafter, contagiousness gradually decreases and becomes negligible by about three weeks despite persisting coughing.
    • Pertussis is spread by respiratory droplets that tend to fall to the ground a few feet from a person coughing, laughing, talking, shouting, or singing.

What Students Can Do

  • If a student suspects they have symptoms or have been exposed to pertussis, they should contact the University Health Center (UHC) at (541) 346-2770.
  • Students can practice these good health habits to minimize the risk of contracting pertussis and many other communicable diseases:
    • Wash your hands often, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
    • Avoid sharing personal items such as lip balm, cups, utensils, etc.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
    • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
  • Students who are sick should:
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
    • Put your used tissue in the waste basket.
    • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands, if you don’t have a tissue.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For further information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Oregon Health Authority websites.