12/31/11 More whooping cough cases found

More whooping cough cases found
School contacting parents to offer preventative antibiotics
By Roselee Papandrea, The Times-News 12/31/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 Additional cases of whooping cough have been identified in Alamance County since health officials announced earlier this week that the state lab confirmed that three children at B. Everett Jordan Elementary have the bacterial infection.

 While there is no need to verify additional cases with the state lab, there are four other cases that are considered “confirmed” because the people had symptoms and have been in contact with one of the children originally tested. There are another nine people who have symptoms and those are considered “probable cases,” said Dr. Kathleen Shapley-Quinn, medical director at the Alamance County Health Department.

 All the reported cases are linked to B. Everett Jordan Elementary School. The parents of all the children who attend the school along with staff have all been contacted by the health department and offered a preventative antibiotic.

 “What we are doing now is reviewing all the information we have gathered talking to 560 children’s parents to see if there are other children affected,” Shapley-Quinn said.

 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. While the infection is rarely a cause of serious disease or hospitalization in school-age children and adults, it can be dangerous to babies younger than 12 months.

 “We are really focused on keeping babies from getting pertussis,” Shapley-Quinn said.

 While most babies are vaccinated against pertussis along with all public school children before they start kindergarten, the vaccine isn’t foolproof. It’s 88 percent effective, Shapley-Quinn said.

 “That means 12 children of every 100 are at risk,” she said. “The vaccine isn’t perfect.”

 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. Pertussis is most contagious before the coughing starts.

 While a preventative antibiotic is being offered to staff and children at B. Everett Jordan Elementary, the best way to prevent the disease is through a Tdap vaccination, which prevents tetanus/ diphtheria/pertussis. In 2008, state law required that all sixth-graders receive a Tdap booster shot.

 Anyone with questions about pertussis or who thinks they’ve been exposed to the infection can call the Health Department’s communicable disease hotline at 336-516-7715.