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Whooping cough again shows up at two Ferndale schools

Ferndale School District advised Custer Elementary School and Ferndale High School students and their families today there have been 2 diagnosed cases of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, 1 in each school.

As a result of these 2 cases, the following letter from the Whatcom County Health Department was emailed to families with students attending either school according to the Ferndale School District.

April 24, 2018
Dear Parent or Guardian,

A child that attends [Custer Elementary/Ferndale High School] has been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough). People who were within three feet of this individual for more than one hour could become sick between [April 21st and May 11th/April 4th and May 7th]. We’re sending you information so you know what to look for in case your child gets sick.

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General information
• Not everyone who has a cough has pertussis. There are many other illnesses that can cause a cough.
• Pertussis requires close contact with an infected person in order to spread.
• Pertussis can cause severe illness in infants, and usually milder disease in older children, adolescents, and adults.
• People exposed to pertussis cannot pass it on to others unless they become sick themselves.

What you should do if your child becomes sick
If your child becomes sick with a runny nose or a cough illness, you should:
Keep your child at home and avoid close contact with others. It is especially important not to go to any childcare or attend settings where there are other small children or infants.
Remind your child to cover his/her mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Contact your child’s health care provider.  If you do not have a regular health care provider, go to a hospital emergency room or urgent care clinic.
Tell your child’s health care provider about this letter or take it with you.
If your child or someone in your household is in a high-risk category, be sure to tell the doctor. Pertussis testing should be considered. The high-risk categories are:
Infants under 1 year of age
Pregnant women in the last 3 months of pregnancy
Health care workers with face-to-face patient contact
Persons living or working with infants or pregnant women

What everyone should do, even if your child isn’t sick
Be sure your children are up-to-date with pertussis vaccinations.
There is also a pertussis vaccine recommended for older children and adults.
Wash hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
If you have a baby, keep the baby away from people that are sick.

For more information, call your usual health care provider.

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Kim Hankinson BSN RN CIC
Public Health Nurse

According to the Whatcom County Health Department website, pertussis “symptoms appear from 5 to 21 days after exposure to the bacteria, but sometimes not for as long as 6 weeks in infants. The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1 – 2 weeks, severe coughing may begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continue for weeks. In infants, the cough can be minimal. Infants may experience apnea, which is a pause in the breathing pattern. Extreme coughing can cause vomiting and fatigue.”

Additionally, “Pertussis is spread through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes while in close contact with others. People treated with appropriate antibiotics can still spread the disease until they have taken antibiotics for a full 5 days. If antibiotics are not taken, the person can be contagious from the onset of symptoms until 3 weeks after the coughing spells start.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, “While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100% effective. When pertussis circulates in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease. If you have gotten the pertussis vaccine but still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.”

There were 2 confirmed cases of pertussis last month. The announcement of today’s two cases does not refer to them as having been confirmed by laboratory testing yet.

Last year saw 2 confirmed cases of pertussis reported by the Ferndale School District.

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