An email about an identified case of Pertussis on campus—more commonly called whooping cough—was sent to the PLNU student body Friday.
“There is a probable case of Pertussis (whooping cough) on our campus,” Caye Smith, vice president for student development, wrote in the campuswide email. “You may have been exposed to this highly contagious disease that causes severe coughing.”
The email written by Smith is the second health advisory sent to the student body in the last two weeks—the first was an alert of the potential for an outbreak of measles on campus.
“Like measles, whooping cough is easily spread from person to person,” said Dawne Page, PLNU biology professor and immunologist via email. “The virus is in droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing.”
But unlike measles, vaccines for Pertussis aren’t always as effective. According to Page, the shot given for measles is a live, “attenuated” vaccine, which means it delivers a live sample of the virus with a reduced ability to cause disease.
“Because it [measles vaccine] is live, however, it makes for a great vaccine because the immune response is responding to a real, but limited, infection,” Page said.
But the Pertussis vaccine is different. Because it contains none of the actual virus, the vaccine only causes the body to bolster the immune system against that particular type of infection.
“Because of that, people need to stay current with their booster shots in order to be fully protected from whooping cough because the immunity does decline over time,” said Page.
Smith’s email outlined preventative measures, Pertussis symptoms and treatment protocol for infected persons.