University Park sees confirmed cases of 'whooping cough'

September 25, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State University Health Services (UHS) reports two recent laboratory confirmed cases of pertussis. Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a respiratory disease caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria, and can be treated with antibiotics. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease and cases in the United States are on the rise. 

The first recent case at University Park was confirmed Friday, Sept. 21; the second case was confirmed Monday, Sept. 24. Both students live off campus and are being treated with antibiotics. They have been advised to self isolate. Five additional possible/probable cases also were reported Monday. These cases appear unrelated to the first and also appear unrelated to one another. The probable cases are under treatment and have been advised to isolate.

UHS is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to manage the situation. UHS staff are identifying close contacts (students, faculty, staff) of both of the confirmed cases and all of the probable cases for evaluation and possible prophylactic treatment. Faculty and staff with concerns should contact Penn State Occupational Health at 814-863-8492.

Most individuals are immunized against pertussis as children. Adolescents and adults are at risk for contracting whooping cough because immunity wanes as we get older. An adult vaccine (Tdap) is available that combines tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) into one injection and is recommended for adults older than 18 years old.  This vaccine, also known by the brand names Adacel or Boostrix, is available to Penn State students at UHS.

Early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to the common cold. Symptoms become more serious after a week to 10 days and include intense coughing spells that often result in vomiting, and at times, loss of consciousness. Breathing problems and sleep and eating disturbances also can occur. Pneumonia, broken ribs, and hospitalization also are possible but rare complications of pertussis. 

In children, there is often a characteristic "whoop" sound when gasping for breath during a coughing spell.  In adolescents and adults, this sound is often absent. The cough can last for several weeks to months. In fact, it has been nicknamed the "100 Day Cough."  Although the infection can be treated with antibiotics, rendering it noninfectious, there is little, if anything, that can be done to ease the cough.

UHS strongly urges all students who have not yet received this vaccine to discuss vaccination with their health care provider. Students also can schedule an appointment at UHS online at or by calling 814-863-0774. UHS will offer a vaccination clinic on Monday, Oct. 1. Students can make appointments for this clinic online at myUHS starting Wednesday, Sept. 26.  

For additional information about pertussis, visit or , select "M-P" then scroll to "Pertussis."  This will open to the pertussis fact sheet.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 19, 2017