TriMet: Driver whooping cough 'unconfirmed'

Credit: TriMet

TriMet: Driver whooping cough 'unconfirmed'


by Evan Sernoffsky, Staff

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 6 at 9:21 PM

PORTLAND – After a morning of confusion about a TriMet driver possibly ill with whooping cough, the agency is now saying the case was unconfirmed and health officials will never know for sure what made the driver sick.

TriMet originally told KGW Wednesday morning that a driver was diagnosed with whooping cough after working a 3-and-a-half-hour shift on the number 10 bus line.

The driver was given medicine to treat whooping cough, making it almost impossible to detect afterward.

Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Justin Denny said the risk to the public would be minimal even if there were a confirmed case in the driver.

“The good news the risk is very low, most of us are immunized and if someone did become sick, they can be tested and treated,’’ Denny said in a press release Wednesday. “If you or your loved ones are not up-to-date on your shots, this is yet another reminder.”

KGW’s news partner, The Oregonian, first reported Wednesday morning that Twitter user @DailyCyclist took a picture of the bus, which was cordoned off and sealed in caution tape. A sign attached to the door read: “Do not enter, infected bus.”

On Wednesday, KGW learned the driver was taking passengers along the number 10 route from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., but the agency did not specify the day.

The 10-Harold Street bus line travels through inner Southeast Portland from the Lents Town Center to downtown. The bus also drops students off at Cleveland High School, which does not have school buses. Cleveland High School didn't know about the possible exposure until KGW alerted them Wednesday afternoon.

The school district immediately posted an alert on its Facebook page and was working on a letter to parents.

Anyone who thinks they may be experiencing whooping cough symptoms should contact their health provider or call the Multnomah County Health Department at 503-988-3406.

TriMet released information about the possible exposure just after noon Wednesday, more than 20 hours after pictures of the cordoned-off bus first emerged on social media. The agency did not say how many people were possibly exposed.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection that spreads through the air. The symptoms include coughing or sneezing that starts like a cold but gets worse over developing weeks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, whooping cough is very contagious and severe for babies in particular.

More: Protecting your family from whooping cough

The bus that was possibly exposed was sanitized and returned to service, according to Angie Murphy with TriMet. Murphy said the agency would not comment any further about the incident.