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Pertussis case confirmed at GBHS
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Wednesday afternoon, USD 428 sent an email letter to parents informing them that a chase of Pertussis (whooping cough) had been confirmed at the high school.  The letter warned of the symptoms and what parents need to do if they suspect their child is infected.
Keep kids home if they have a cough and make an appointment with their doctor, parents are urged.  If the child is diagnosed with the disease, keep them home and away from all school related activities until they are cleared by a doctor to come back to school.  If they are found to be pertussis free, have the doctor provide a letter that the student can bring to school indicating they are pertussis free.  If children are often in contact or live with those from the high risk pool, begin antibiotics right away even if not infected, the letter suggests.  
Very young children who have not received all their immunizations yet, as well as the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised or who have respiratory problems are most at risk.
Barton County Health Administrator Shelly Schneider said she is in the very beginning stages of investigating this incident.  Parents will be contacted, and class rosters and seating arrangements will be gathered from the school nurses.  Signs and symptoms of the disease will be checked, and if a student is ill, the health department will dig deeper to find out if Pertussis is the culprit.  However, complicating things is the fact that influenza is continuing to present in the community, and some symptoms are similar.  
According to the letter, The cough typically worsens over the following weeks and becomes
spasmodic. The cough may be followed by a “whooping” sound. The spasm of cough may be followed by vomiting. Some persons with pertussis may have very mild symptoms (mild cough with no other symptoms) and may not realize that they are sick or contagious. Pertussis is most severe in infants and can cause death. Please watch your child for any symptoms of pertussis (mild, cold-like symptoms) over the next several weeks.
Infection is spread easily.  Risk goes up for people who have been either in front, back or side to side within a three-foot range from a person infected with the virus for at least an hour, Schneider said.  So, passing someone in the halls doesn’t present much opportunity to spread the virus.  However, because high school students move from classroom to classroom throughout the day, investigating the case will take longer than in an elementary school environment where students stay together throughout the day.  It could be Thursday before the Barton County Health Department has any news to report.   
Being immunized against the disease doesn’t mean a person can’t catch Pertussis.  Protection against pertussis from the childhood vaccine, DTaP, decreases over time.  Recently, positive cases have been found among those who have been vaccinated.  According to Schneider, the KDHE is looking closely at these cases to determine if the virus is changing or other factors are at play.  Parents are urged to make sure their children’s vaccinations are up to date, and adults and older children are urged to get boosters.