‘Whooping cough’ outbreak confirmed at Ward Elementary

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Free vaccinations available Friday for students, staff

By The Staff

An outbreak of pertussis or “whooping cough” was confirmed Thursday morning at Emma B. Ward Elementary, according to Superintendent Sheila Mitchell and Anderson County Health Director Tim Wright.

Five cases of whooping cough have been reported, all isolated to a single fifth grade classroom, Wright said.

According to Wright, the first student at Ward to contract whooping cough first visited the doctor on Oct. 22, but the case was not confirmed until Nov. 9.

The state epidemiology department, which has been working with the school and the heath department, has recommended all fifth grade students at Ward be immunized for whooping cough.

Free whooping cough vaccinations will be provided by the Anderson County health department on Friday, Nov. 16 from 4-5:30 p.m. for Ward students and staff only who may have been in contact with others who contracted the infection.

“Usually this vaccination is for 11 year olds and up, but because of the outbreak, we’re going to drop down and take 10 year olds,” Wright said.

Parents must accompany their students for the immunization, and consent forms will be required to be signed on site, Wright said.

According to a news release from Superintendent Mitchell, a letter has been sent home to parents of students informing them of confirmed whooping cough cases and to look for symptoms of the infection. Ward will implement additional thorough cleanings and mid-day cleanings until further notice, she said.

“Parents of students in close contact were called by phone and will continue to be contacted if additional cases are confirmed,” according to Mitchell’s release. 

Pertussis, known commonly as “whooping cough” for the high-pitched “whoop” noise patients make when trying to breathe, is a bacterial infection that is highly contagious even three days after it is first contracted.

Whooping cough, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, may last up to six weeks and coughing spells may result in vomiting, runny nose, a slight fever or diarrhea.

Wright said the vaccination may not prevent those elementary students who have already been in contact with whooping cough from getting it; the infection usually takes 10-14 days to show symptoms.

“Hopefully, it will prevent them from getting it in the future,” Wright said, adding that all fifth grade students are required to be immunized for whooping cough before enrolling in the sixth grade.

Wright said the health department will monitor other Anderson County schools whooping cough cases. The department has also contacted medical providers in the area to inform providers to not only treat symptomatic patients, but also those that have been in contact with a positive case.

Mitchell said additional information about the outbreak will be available on the district’s website at http://www.anderson.k12.ky.us/. A fact sheet from the Anderson County health department is also available for download: http://www.anderson.k12.ky.us/protected/ArticleView.aspx?iid=6GB20PY&das...