Iowa State University

Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, manager,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Marc Shulman, Thielen Student Health Center, (515) 294-7989

Penni McKinley, Thielen Student Health Center, (515) 294-1059

James Nelson, Thielen Student Health Center, (515) 294-7971

Annette Hacker, News Service, (515) 294-3720

One case of whooping cough confirmed at ISU

AMES, Iowa -- The Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed that an Iowa State University student has pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough.

The student lives off campus and is receiving antibiotic therapy.

To date, this is the only confirmed case of whooping cough identified at Iowa State; however, there were at least 42 lab-confirmed cases of the disease elsewhere in Story County as of Wednesday morning, Nov. 24.

ISU students are currently on Thanksgiving break. Nearly two weeks ago, Thielen Student Health Center officials communicated via e-mail with students, faculty and staff in an effort to increase awareness of whooping cough, educate the community on ways to identify the illness, and provide links to information on prevention and self-care.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Symptoms may initially resemble the common cold. As it advances, the more characteristic symptoms are a long series of coughs followed by a high-pitched intake of breath, or a whooping noise.

School-aged children and adults are more likely to have an upper respiratory illness that begins with cold symptoms and a cough, and becomes increasingly severe over one to two weeks. Pertussis is sometimes confused with bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. Generally, there is no fever. Antibiotics may decrease pertussis symptom severity and reduce the infectiousness of the ill person. Antibiotics also are recommended for anyone who has had contact with an infected person, in order to prevent contraction and spread of the disease.

Anyone experiencing a cough for 14 days, or a cough of shorter duration that includes spasms, the inability to control coughing, or a cough with vomiting should seek medical treatment for further evaluation.

Physicians at Thielen Student Health Center are following the Pertussis Control Guidelines as provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

"ISU and the Story County Health Department are contacting those persons who have had close contact with the infected student, so that they may seek preventative treatment," said Penni McKinley of ISU's Thielen Student Health Center. "We encourage everyone to wash their hands vigorously and often. The best things people can do to help their immune systems are to wash their hands, maintain good nutrition and get an adequate amount of sleep. Use common sense: don't share utensils or drinking glasses; if you have a dishwasher, use it; and cover your cough."

When students return from break on Monday, anyone who may have shared a classroom with the infected student will be made aware of the pertussis case, McKinley added.

Anyone being treated with antibiotics for the whooping cough infection should stay home and away from class or work for five days.

Whooping cough was a leading cause of childhood illness in the early to mid-1900s, until a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s. The number of cases gradually declined, reaching a low in the 1980s. Since then, however, the incidence of whooping cough has been on the upswing, primarily among children too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations.

Whooping cough is also on the rise among teens and adults, because immunity from the vaccine can decrease with age. With proper care, most teenagers and adults recover from whooping cough without complications. The disease is more serious in children, especially infants younger than 6 months.

To contact the ISU Thielen Student Health Center: (515) 294-5801