Two cases of whooping cough have been confirmed at an Olympia elementary school, according to Thurston County health officials.
“We are working with those families, as well as with schools, to keep families informed, and to provide information on how families can best protect themselves and the community,” said Gabrielle Byrne, a spokeswoman for the county’s Public Health and Social Services.
Both students attend Lincoln Options Elementary School in Olympia’s South Capitol neighborhood, Byrne said. However, the alternative school serves children from all over Olympia.
A letter was sent home to parents at the school on Sept. 14 notifying them that a case was reported, according to Olympia School District spokeswoman Susan Gifford. On Wednesday, another letter was sent after a second lab-confirmed case was reported at the school, she said.
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“We are not aware of any other confirmed cases of whooping cough in our school district,” Gifford said.
Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection that spreads easily by coughing and sneezing.
Vaccinations can prevent it. People who are at the greatest risk from whooping cough include babies under age 1, pregnant women and people who have chronic respiratory illness.
“Sometimes when vaccinated people are exposed, they get whooping cough anyway, although they usually have milder symptoms, a shorter illness, and may be less likely to spread the disease to others,” according to the state Department of Health website. For more information on whooping cough, go to http://bit.ly/2wXxZ5n.
Olympia School District parent Cary Hamilton said she thinks the school district should have notified more parents because the buses that serve Lincoln students also are used by students who attend other schools.
“If we have children in direct contact like this, then these families should have been notified as well,” Hamilton told The Olympian. “They have our information of what families use the transportation system. (With) something as contagious as this, parents should be notified at outbreak so that they can look for symptoms and keep children out of the school or bus that may be susceptible to illness.”
Gifford said the district was following its protocol.
"Our practice with reports of cases of infectious diseases, such as whooping cough, is to notify families at the affected school, using guidance from the Health Department,” she wrote in a statement. “If the number of cases increases, we send notification to our entire district. We will be following up tomorrow, September 29, with a letter to all OSD families."
5 facts about whooping cough
1. Symptoms usually start 5 to 21 days after exposure.
2. It’s usually treated with antibiotics.
3. The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated against it. Washing hands, covering a cough and staying home when sick also help prevent its spread. For immunization information and resources, call the state’s Family Health Hotline at 800-322-2588 or go to www.parenthelp123.org.
4. If you think you’ve been exposed, talk to your doctor, nurse or clinic. You may be given antibiotics to stop from getting the disease.
5. Although pertussis bacteria can live on a surface or object for several days, most people get it from close, face-to-face contact with people who have it.
Source: Washington state Department of Health