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Whooping cough making the rounds at local schools

Posted: November 21, 2013 6:13 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:13 p.m.
 

More than 10 cases of whooping cough have been reported at Santa Clarita Valley schools in recent weeks, leading officials to revisit the importance of vaccination as a preventive step to ward off the disease.

Six of those cases were reported in two high schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District, district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said Thursday: five at Hart High School and the sixth at Golden Valley.

The Hart case was repored in mid-October. No cases were reported in the district’s junior high schools.

“We generally have an isolated case or two, but this year we do have more cases than usual,” she said.

Five cases have also been reported at the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences middle and high school, according to the school’s website. The school is chartered through the Hart district and meets in the Valencia Industrial Center.

“Please be assured that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is working closely with the Albert Einstein Academy administration to help prevent further transmission,” the website post reads. “As a part of this effort, teachers and administrators in the school will be on the lookout for students who are coughing excessively or experiencing cough attacks so that these students can be referred to the school’s health office to be sent home and seen by their doctor.”

Other cases
A case of whooping cough was also reported earlier this school year at Castaic Middle School, according to Janene Maxon, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Castaic Union School District.

“Our district nurse followed through with Department of Health guidelines and we were able to take care of it,” she said.

One case was also reported in the Newhall School District, according to Sandra Gault, one of the district nurses.

The Sulphur Springs School District has not had any reported instances of the disease recently, according to Kim Lytle, the district’s assistant superintendent of pupil services.

Saugus Union School District could not be reached for comment.

Disease
Whooping cough — pertussis in technical terms — is a highly contagious disease characterized by coughing attacks that can make it hard to breathe, sleep, eat or drink, according to county health officials.

The illness, which can be spread through the air when people cough, often begin with symptoms much like a common cold before worsening after a week or two.

The disease is commonly referred to as whooping cough because of the “whooping” sound an infected person makes gasping for air after a coughing fit.

Student is diagnosed with whooping cough are required to undergo a five-day antibiotic regimen or wait 21 days before returning to school, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Students who are not vaccinated against the disease and may have come into contact with an infected individual are also subject to the same guidelines.

Pinsker said it is important for health-care providers to be aware of the county’s regulations regarding whooping cough so that students are not sent back to school before they should be.

Vaccination
Children who are uninsured or do not have a regular health-care provider can find information on no-cost or low-cost vaccination providers through the county Public Health Department. Information can be found online at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip.

“If a parent is concerned and has not immunized their student against whooping cough, there is still time to do so,” Pinsker said.

“We don’t want anybody exposed and have to suffer from getting a disease they could be immunized against,” she added.

The number of cases of the disease nationally has risen in recent years. The 48,277 reported instances of whooping cough in the United States in 2012 was the highest since 1955, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An estimated 30 to 50 million cases of whooping cough are reported around the globe every year, leading to an average of about 300,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

 

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