Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?


Karmi Chan, Staff Writer

This year, California enacted a new law mandating teenagers in grades seven through 12 to receive a booster shot for pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, in order to reduce the spread of the disease.

This new law applies to students in both public and private schools. In 2010 California was one of the 10 states where the Tdap shot, a vaccine for pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus for people ages 11 and up, was not mandatory for students entering middle school.

“Fortunately, California is catching up with most of the other states in having this requirement,” said school nurse Barbara Polanger.

Last year 7,200 cases of pertussis were reported in California. According to the California Department of Public Health and California Department of Education, 2010 brought the most cases of whooping cough in over 60 years.The law was authorized for the 2011-2012 school year.

Students are required to take the Tdap booster shot before arriving at school. By receiving the vaccine, students are protecting themselves and their classmates from this disease.

“Mr. McAlister called me into his office and told me I was the last student in the school who needed to get the vaccine,” said senior Miles Honens. “I went to CVS the next day and got the shot in my arm.”

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that is most easily spread through coughing and sneezing. An infected person endures violent coughing spasms, leaving them breathless.

Pertussis lasts for around six weeks, which can put infected students behind in their studies.
Children under seven years old receive the DTaP vaccine, protecting them against whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus.

Immunity for this vaccine wears off after five to 10 years, and children become susceptible to the disease once again. This is why it becomes necessary to receive the booster shot.

Whooping cough starts out like a normal cold: a runny nose, mild cough, and slight fever. The severe coughing doesn’t start until one to two weeks later. These coughing attacks can last for weeks, until cured by antibiotics.

Pertussis received the nickname, whooping cough, after the sound made from an infected person’s breathing. After a relentless coughing attack, a whooping sound emits from one’s lungs as they gasp for breath.

Whooping cough is a deadly disease for infants. Most babies obtain the disease from those closest to them, often parents and siblings. By receiving the Tdap shot, family members protect their infants from this fatal illness.

While this new law mandates students to receive the booster shot, some families oppose vaccines. Exceptions to this law include people whose beliefs are contrary to immunizations and to those who are not medically indicated.

“Some parents don’t believe in immunizations, which is the problem,” said Polanger.

The fact remains that whooping cough is a highly contagious disease and immunization is the only prevention. The new California law is stopping the spread of pertussis throughout the state. Now, students can no longer use whooping cough as an excuse for missing school.