12/29/11 Whooping cough cases prompt alert

Whooping cough cases prompt alert
Bacterial infection confirmed in three students
By Roselee Papandrea The Times-News 12/29/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 Letters were mailed to parents recommending that all students and staff at B. Everett Jordan Elementary School who might have been exposed to whooping cough receive preventive antibiotics after health officials confirmed last week that at least three children at the school have the bacterial infection.

 The Alamance County Health Department was notified Dec. 21 that one child at the elementary school, located on Church Road near Saxapahaw, has “laboratory confirmed pertussis,” according to a Health Department news release. Since that time, two other children have been diagnosed with the cough.

 “We determined the best approach was to provide prescription medication to all students and staff who work at B. Everett Jordan to prevent the spread of pertussis,” the release states.

 After the confirmation, letters were mailed in English and Spanish to parents to let them know about the confirmed case.

 “The affected student is currently undergoing treatment,” the letter states. “Due to confidentiality laws, the name of the individual will not be released.”

 The letter explains that pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that starts with typical cold symptoms and in one to two weeks develops into prolonged bursts of coughing with a “whooping noise” at the end.

 “Parents should not be alarmed as this infection is rarely a cause of serious disease or hospitalization in school age children or adults,” the letter states.

 The Alamance-Burlington School System is notifying affected staff and parents of children who have come into direct contact with the students diagnosed with the cough.

 “The ABSS staff and health department nurses are looking closely to determine who we believe would benefit from preventive antibiotics,” the letter states. “Those identified as needing antibiotics will receive a phone call from the health department.”

 Direct contact includes anyone who was sitting or standing within three feet of the sick individuals for 15 minutes or more. However, anyone who attends the school is eligible to receive antibiotics.

 “Taking it a step further, the (Alamance County Health Department) and ABSS proceeded with contacting the rest of the (B. Everett Jordan) school families to offer them the opportunity to receive preventive antibiotics,” said Alamance-Burlington School System spokeswoman Jenny Faulkner in an email.

 The Health Department also set up a phone line for parents to call if they have any questions, Faulkner said.

 Health officials recommend that if a child develops symptoms — runny nose, cough and low-grade fever — that child should be taken to the doctor for an evaluation.

 “This is particularly true if your child has symptoms that start before Jan. 2, 2012,” the letter states.

 If a parent thinks a child has been exposed or has questions about pertussis, call the Health Department’s communicable disease hotline at 336-516-7715. If the nurse on duty doesn’t answer, leave a message and contact number and she will return the call.