Whooping cough cases reported at PM schools

Students at Penn Manor High School and Pequea Elementary School have been diagnosed with pertussis, or whooping cough. As a precaution, parents of students at those schools have been notified that their children may have been exposed. The following is the text of a letter from high school principal Philip Gale regarding pertussis:

 

Dear Parent/Guardian:

We recently learned that two students at Penn Manor High School were diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough), which the Pennsylvania Department of Health constitutes as an outbreak of the disease.  Because of your child’s schedule, he or she may have been exposed to this disease.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs.  Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes much worse over 1-2 weeks.  Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (“coughing fits”) followed by a whooping noise.  However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop.  People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching their breath.

The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.  The disease can be very severe and, although deaths are rare, they do occur, especially in infants less than one year of age.

Making sure that children receive all their shots on time is the best way to control pertussis in the future.  In children, diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) vaccine is only given to those under 7 years of age.  Children should receive one dose of DTaP at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and between 15-18 months of age.  In addition, one dose is needed before starting school (on or after the fourth birthday).  Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is eligible for another dose of DTaP in the accelerated schedule.  If you are not sure your child is properly immunized, promptly contact his or her doctor.

  • The combination tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) is recommended for children ages 7 through 10 (if not fully vaccinated) and adolescents and adults as a one-time dose.  It is also recommended during EACH pregnancy to protect the newborn infant.
  • During a pertussis outbreak, a dose of Tdap should be administered to children 10 and up (even if fully vaccinated) and all adolescents and adults as a one-time dose to those who have not received Tdap previously or for whom vaccine status is unknown.

Anyone eligible for Tdap may receive it regardless of interval since the most recent tetanus containing vaccine.

If you or your doctor have a question about pertussis, please call our school nurse, Anne Butterfield, at 872-9520, ext. 1356 or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding in this matter.

Sincerely,

Philip B. Gale, Ed.D.

Principal

More information about pertussis and how to protect your family is available at the following web sites:

http://www.cdc.gov/features/pertussis/

To hear the cough of Pertussis:  http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/diseases_and_conditions/11595, click on Pertussis

http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/whooping_cough.html

If you have questions or concerns about your child, please do not hesitate to contact the nurse in his or her school building.