1/18/12 New case of whooping cough found

New case of whooping cough found
Cases confirmed at Garrett Elementary, Western Middle
The Times-News 1/18/12     
Reprinted with permission.

  A new, lab-confirmed case of whooping cough was identified Tuesday at Audrey W. Garrett Elementary in Mebane, the Alamance County Health Department said in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

   The case comes on the heels of a now-confirmed case of pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, at Western Middle on Thursday. That case was confirmed by “epidemiological linkage” — close contact with a person who had a lab-confirmed case of pertussis — Health Department spokesman Eric Nickens Jr. said Tuesday.

   The Health Department and Alamance-Burlington School System notified 80 parents and staff at the Mebane elementary school Tuesday night. Any additional families of students identified by the schools as at risk of contracting pertussis would be notified as they are identified, Nickens said.

   The Health Department wasn’t releasing information about the student at Garrett Elementary due to confidentiality laws, the release said. The student’s grade level wasn’t yet confirmed, Nickens said

.    “Within the next 24 hours, the Health Department, with the assistance of the Alamance-Burlington School System, will have notified affected parents and staff at Audrey W. Garrett. In addition, medical and health care providers in the community have been notified,” the release said.

   No other suspected or confirmed pertussis cases had arisen at Western Alamance Middle School or Western Alamance High School as of Tuesday evening, Nickens said.

   When the Health Department and school system announced the now-confirmed case Thursday, it was reported that both schools might be affected because the unidentified student rode a bus shared between the schools.

   The Health Department notified 84 families of the possibility that their children might have been in close enough proximity to have contracted pertussis.

   The Health Department contacts families and staff believed to have been within three feet of someone with the disease for at least 15 minutes, said AyoWhite, the Health Department’s communicable disease prevention coordinator, last week.

   Dr. Kathleen Shapley-Quinn, the department’s medical director, expects more cases of whooping cough to be identified now that the public and medical providers are more aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease, she said.

   Symptoms of the bacterial infection often start with typical cold symptoms — like a runny nose, low-grade fever, and short cough — and develop into prolonged bursts of coughing, often with a whooping noise at the end, in one to two weeks.The sick person usually feels well between the fits of coughing.

   “Regardless of how many cases are confirmed or suspected, getting appropriate tetanus and pertussis vaccine is the most effective way to protect our community. Elementary and middle school students are required to receive timely immunizations to attend public school. It is equally important for adults to make sure their own immunizations are up-to-date,” Shapley-Quinn said in the release.

   For more information or specific questions, call the Alamance County Health Department Communicable Disease Hotline at 336-516-7715. Those who don’t immediately reach a nurse on duty should leave a message including their contact information to receive a returned phone call.