In less than a week, two letters have been sent to Great Bend High School parents about confirmed cases of pertussis, or “whooping cough,” at the school.
Neither the school nor the Barton County Health Department will confirm if the students were vaccinated prior to infection. According to the letter, protection against pertussis from the childhood vaccine, DTaP, decreases over time. Older children and adults, including pregnant women, should get a pertussis booster shot called “Tdap” to protect themselves and infants near or around them.
According to Kansas statutes related to school immunizations, each child must present appropriate certification from a physician or the local health department that required tests and inoculations have been received. Pupils who are not up-to-date on vaccinations may continue to attend school provided their doctor or the health department certifies that the pupil has received the most recent appropriate inoculations in all required series. That means, if for some reason a child began receiving inoculations late, or appropriate records are not recoverable and the series must be given again, the student can still catch up.
If the student is not in compliance, the school board may exclude the child from school and all school activities until certification of vaccination is received. There are provisions in the statutes ensuring children who are without resources to pay for the inoculations can not be excluded from receiving them.
There are two exceptions to the vaccination requirements. An annual written statement signed by a licensed physician stating the physical condition of the child to be such that vaccinations would seriously endanger the life or health of the child may be presented. The second, a written statement signed by one parent or guardian that the child is an adherent of a religious denomination whose religious teachings are opposed to vaccinations may also be presented. Most mainstream organized religions are not opposed to vaccination, according to an October, 2012 paper by religious expert John D. Grabenstein. ( http://childrenshealthcare.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Vaccine-Grabenstein-article.pdf )
The Barton County Health Department will continue its investigation to determine which students have come in contact with those confirmed cases. In the mean time, parents are urged to keep an eye out for symptoms which typically appear 7-10 days after a person is exposed. They include cold-like symptoms, including a cough and runny nose.
“The cough typically worsens over time and can result in coughing fits, vomiting, and the cough may be followed by a “whooping” sound,” according to the letter. “Anyone can get pertussis, but it can be very dangerous for infants and people with weakened immune systems.”