Whooping cough case reported at Bend Park and Rec camp

A group of children make their way up the climbing wall as their parents watch at The Pavilion in Bend in summer 2016. (Ryan Brennecke/Bulletin file photo)

A case of whooping cough was reported at a Bend Park & Recreation District summer camp last week.

The camper had attended two days of the weeklong camp before the illness was reported to Deschutes County Public Health on Friday, said Julie Brown, the park district’s communication director. About 150 kids each day at the camp were possibly exposed.

The case is one of 13 confirmed so far in the month of June — the same number of cases that was reported for all of 2018.

A letter was emailed to parents whose children participated in the camp at The Pavilion late last week to alert them of the exposure. The letter also included guidance from the county health department about getting children vaccinated and how to identify symptoms of whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

“In this particular situation there have been several cases of pertussis in the community, so it wasn’t unexpected that something like this could happen in a summer camp,” Brown said.

While the park district supports the public health department’s advice to vaccinate against the illness, the district has no vaccination policy or requirement for program participants.

Earlier this year, Deschutes County Public Health confirmed four cases of pertussis. One adult was from the community, two were high school students at Summit High School and one was a student at Bend High School.

There have been 22 confirmed cases of whooping cough this year. More than half have been reported in June, affecting eight schools, the Bend Water Polo Club and Bend Park & Recreation District, according to the health department.

The spike in June could be attributed to the fact many of the cases reported in May were among school age children, which meant there was more opportunity for the illness to spread within the close proximity of the classroom, said Jill Johnson, a public health nurse with Deschutes County.

People from 10 to 19 years old have been most affected this year, making up 16 of the 22 reported cases. Johnson said this is likely due to the fact many are spending time with other people similar in age.

“The worry is that a child in this age group will pass it on to a younger sibling,” Johnson said in an email. “Babies are at increased risk for complications related to pertussis.”

Pertussis outbreaks also appear to be cyclical in nature, Johnson said. In 2014 and 2015, the county saw a combined 100 cases of whooping cough. In 2016, only three cases were reported. Last year, the number crept up to 13.

“With school ending for the year, the number of new cases should start to decrease,” Johnson said in an email.

Initial symptoms are similar to those of a cold, such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough, according to the health department. After a few days, the cough typically worsens, and spasms and vomiting can occur.

Infants, who are at the highest risk of serious illness from pertussis, can demonstrate more severe symptoms such as gagging, gasping and a whooping sound while coughing. People with symptoms of pertussis should get a medical evaluation, according to the health department.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, 

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