Whooping cough hits the social science quad

By Nancy Lo

A mysteriously foul plague may have descended upon the social science quad. Although one can hear hacking from the human development department, according to Dr. Sarah Van Orman, director of the Student Care Center (SCC), there has been “no confirmed cases of pertussis. A confirmed case is where we have isolated the organism through culture or have performed a positive direct fluorescent antibody test.”

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is caused by Bordetella pertusis, a gram-negative rod, and is an acute infectious disease. Kae Hunt, disease investigator at the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), said that pertussis has been on the rise, jumping from 323 cases in 2003 to 1563 cases in 2004. “If we felt like we have an outbreak like we did a year ago, we would do the confirmatory testing using one of the test kits from the IDPH,” Van Orman said. “We get them involved.” She added that pertussis is a disease worth reporting.

Although there have been no confirmed cases of pertussis, there has been action taken against suspect cases, leading some students to believe that they do indeed have it. Van Orman said, “In general, suspected pertussis cases are not rare in a primary care setting, but may have only been one of a few possible diagnoses that was considered by the doctor.” Instead, she suggests that students may be experiencing other upper respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, or sinus infections, but after prolonged illness, antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce contagion and to lower susceptibility to secondary infection. In the meantime, Van Orman advises students to wash their hands and to come to the SCC to get all necessary vaccinations

Pertussis or not, for students battling illness during midterms, “whether my profs have been understanding is moot,” Bianca Dahl, a graduate student in human development said. “I’m a graduate student and I can’t afford to miss workshops or conferences because of a cough.”