Local News

December 7, 2010

Whooping cough found at Osky school

OSKALOOSA — A confirmed case of whooping cough has been reported at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

On Dec. 1, school officials sent parents a letter informing them that a confirmed case of pertussis (whooping cough) had been reported in the fifth grade, Superintendent Russell Reiter said.

Everybody in the student’s class and grade received a letter about whooping cough and its symptoms, Reiter said. Another letter was sent to parents of the rest of the elementary school informing them of the situation. The letter and information sheet also has been posted on the school district Web site.

“We wanted parents to have a good sense of the symptoms,” Reiter said.

There were 24 pupils in the class of the infected student, Reiter said.

The students were sent to the doctor for a checkup and were given antibiotics, he said.

Reiter said that students could return to school if they had a note from a doctor that stated they had been checked and they were asymptomatic.

School officials outlined the symptoms of whooping cough in a fact sheet.

According to the fact sheet: “Whooping cough is usually not life-threatening in school-aged kids; most serious cases occur in infants under 6 months of age. It is caused by bacteria and spread by direct contact or droplets broadcast with coughing. It takes about 7-20 days for the disease to develop after exposure.

“The first 1 -2 weeks of the disease have symptoms just like a cold — sore throat, tiredness, runny nose, dry cough. May have a mild fever. After about 2 weeks the disease progresses to the coughing phase, which may last for 3 weeks or even months.

“The sufferer may have attacks of a choking cough that lasts from 1-2 minutes, often with gagging and vomiting and a feeling of suffocation. These choking attacks of coughing may happen as little as twice a day or as often as fifty times a day. Between attacks, the sufferer may not cough at all and may appear healthy. ‘Whoop’ is the noise that occurs between coughs when the sufferer is suddenly able to take a breath in again. Only about half of those with whooping cough actually have a ‘whoop.’  …

“Treatment usually consists of 14 days of an antibiotic, but sometimes this doesn’t make much difference, and the disease just has to run its course. The sufferer is considered to be contagious from the first day of the first cold-like symptoms through about 3 weeks of the bad coughing (if untreated) or until after 5 days on antibiotics. By the time this disease is positively diagnosed, most close contacts have already been exposed. Again, it is our good immunity levels that prevent exposed kids from getting sick.”

Reiter said the school district has been fortunate since there are fewer than five positive cases of whooping cough per year.

Reiter said he has been in a school district that had 70 to 80 cases, and it was difficult to differentiate whooping cough from the common cold.

Reiter said no additional cases of whooping cough have been reported.

Mahaska County Public Health Coordinator Patty Malloy said there are three confirmed cases of whooping cough in Mahaska County with only one in the Oskaloosa Community School District.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com

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