A Montgomery County school district put the community on alert after five high school students came down with pertussis (whooping cough).
Two Souderton Area High School ninth graders came down with the highly-contagious disease in recent weeks – county health officials determined one case on March 2 and the other on March 11. Three other students also tested positive for the disease.
County health officials declared the school to be in “outbreak status” and urged any student with a cough – the condition can begin as a minor cough -- to not come to school until a physician tests him or her for pertussis.
The respiratory condition – which can include fever and severe coughing fits that could continue for weeks – is spread person to person by inhaling bacteria droplets during direct contact with someone who sneezes or coughs, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition can be extremely dangerous to children up to 7 years old and children not completely vaccinated against the disease.
The Souderton Area School District asked parents to follow county and state recommendations in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease:
- Parents should review each child’s health record to determine the vaccination status of the child.
- Children should be observed over the next 2 weeks for any symptoms such as a running nose, sudden, uncontrollable bursts or spells of coughing that persist and sometimes cause vomiting. These symptoms should be reported immediately to your pediatrician.
- If your child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough, the child should be evaluated by his/her pediatrician. Evaluation should include a nasopharyngeal culture for pertussis.
- Children with pertussis, if their medical condition allows, may return to school and activities five (5) days after starting appropriate antibiotics and must continue taking the antibiotics until completed.
- All household members and close contacts of a confirmed pertussis case should receive preventative antibiotics regardless of their age or vaccination status.
Parents who haven’t had their children vaccinated against the condition can talk to their pediatrician about receiving the DTaP vaccine.
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Further questions can be directed to the county’s Division of Communicable Disease Control at (610) 278-5117.