Parkway School District Warns Parents About Whooping Cough
WEST ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. (KTVI) – Parkway West High School is home to the latest case of a startlingly large number of pertussis, or whooping cough, cases across St. Louis county and Missouri. St. Louis County Health Department officials say they have confirmed 217 cases in 2012, compared to only 154 over the same period last year.
“It is prevalent across all school district,” Dr. Faisal Khan said in an interview Tuesday. “We’ve seen cases, West County, North County, Central, South, so there really is no specific geographic area.”
Khan says this is part of a nationwide resurgence of the disease, once thought to be nearly extinct thanks to vaccination. But in the last few years, numbers have grown, with a particular spike in 2012.
“The vaccination pattern does not seem to be controlling the spread of pertussis. So pertussis is prevalent in the community. Children are still vulnerable to it. The young are vulnerable to it even if they have had the full dose of vaccinations.”
He recommends booster shots for the vaccine in kids over ten and adults as well.
As for symptoms, the cough, obviously, is what stands out.
“It’s a persistent kind of cough, and it may or may not be accompanied by a fever or runny nose or other symptoms.”
But, as the cold and flu season sets in, Khan says it could become more confusing to identify. The symptoms could mirror influenza.
“The difference being the duration and severity of the cough. Any cough that lasts more than two weeks without a decrease in severity should alarm parents,” he said.
At Parkway West, Tuesday, word of the confirmed case was a topic of conversation. School officials sent home an email just before the end of the school day, notifying parents of the case, and asking them to keep an eye out for symptoms.
Judy Newell, a parent here, says she sees it as something she can do little about, other than watch.
“Just to kind of be aware of the situation,” she said. “I was kind of curious if it was any of the kids in my kids grades because I have a senior and a sophomore.”
That’s an answer she says she’s not yet gotten.
Parkway is one of countless schools with a case. The numbers in St. Louis County represent a spike in cases, but the statewide numbers are even worse. The Centers for Disease Control reports Missouri has more than three times the cases compared to the same period a year ago.
“We’re seeing an increase nationwide. Different states have reported different levels of increase. Some states have had to declare a state of emergency, Khan said.
Links for more information on Pertussis:
Here’s a copy of the letter sent home to parents on whooping cough:
We want to inform you that there has been a single confirmed case of Pertussis (whooping cough) at West High School, and there may be other cases that we are unaware of at this time. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough, and is required to be reported to the health department. People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, or difficulty catching their breath. See the attached pertussis fact sheet for detailed information.
Following are the Saint Louis County Department of Health recommendations:
If your child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough, keep them home from school and talk to your child’s doctor without delay. Tell him/her that there has been a confirmed case of pertussis in your child’s school. Testing with a nasopharyngeal specimen to identify pertussis along with giving antibiotics early can help lower the chances of spreading the disease to others.
Infants less than one year old, particularly under six months, are most likely to experience severe illness that may be life threatening if they develop pertussis. Infants should be kept away from people with a cough. If your infant is exposed to pertussis notify their physician without delay. A doctor should promptly evaluate infants with any coughing illness.
Make certain your child is up to date on their pertussis immunization; however, this does not denote foregoing testing and treatment. It is also recommended that adolescents and adults receive pertussis immunization (see bullets on attached Pertussis Fact Sheet).
If you have any questions, please consult your child’s physician or the Saint Louis County Department of Health at 314-615-1630.