A Catholic high school in Houston, Texas closed early for the Christmas holidays due to seven confirmed cases of pertussis (whooping cough). St. Theresa Catholic School cancelled all classes and activities on Dec. 12, 2019 due to the outbreak. The school will re-open on Jan. 6, 2020.1 2
The first case of pertussis at St. Theresa’s was confirmed on Dec. 4 and it was “immediately reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services to investigate,” said the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in statement.1 2
The confirmed cases included both students and staff members at the school. Some of the students have been hospitalized.3
In a letter sent out to parents, the pastor at St. Theresa’s, Rev. Phil Lloyd, wrote, “It is my prayer that we have no more children hospitalized due to the spread of this disease.”3
Pertussis is a “highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the Bordetella (B.) pertussis bacterium, notes the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). “B. pertussis bacteria attach themselves to the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract and cause inflammation in the body. The major symptom of B. pertussis whooping cough disease is uncontrollable coughing.”4
According to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, all of the students at St. Theresa’s are vaccinated against pertussis,2 5 but as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges, the pertussis vaccines are not “perfect.”6
The pertussis vaccines “typically offer good levels of protection within the first two years after getting the vaccine, but then protection decreases over time. Public health experts call this ‘waning immunity.’” says the CDC on its website.6
There are nine different pertussis vaccines licensed for use in United States, including Adacel, Boostrix, DAPTACEL, Infanrix, KINRIX, Pediarix, Pentacel, Quadracel and VAXELIS.7
2 Hackett DW. 100% Vaccinated School Closes in Houston. Precision Vaccinations Dec. 19, 2019.
3 de Luna M. Houston school closes due to whooping cough outbreak. Houston Chronicle Dec. 18, 2019.
4 National Vaccine Information Center. Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Disease & Vaccine Information. NVIC.org.
5 Marchand K. Houston school closed until January due to whooping cough outbreak. KTRK-TV Houston Dec. 18, 2019.
6 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis Frequently Asked Questions. CDC.gov.
7 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines Licensed for Use in the United States. FDA.gov.