Thursday, January 18, 2001

Whooping cough has schools vigilant




By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Lakota school officials say they're doing all they can to halt an outbreak of highly contagious whooping cough.

        The district has seen seven confirmed cases of the illness, also known as pertussis. Other local districts have reported cases, too.

        Pertussis is a bacterial disease that often causes a severe, whooping-like cough in children. It is most dangerous for infants under 1 year old, or those with weaker immune systems.

        Lakota Superintendent Kathleen Klink sent a letter to families in the district last week.

        From Oct. 19 to Dec. 5 there were five confirmed cases at Woodland Elementary and one at Union Elementary, said Judi Owens, nursing director for the Butler County Health Department.

        Last week, a seventh-grader at Lakota Ridge Junior School was diagnosed with the illness.

        “We're trying to be proactive,” Mrs. Klink said. “We have signs up in the restrooms and are reinforcing in the regular classrooms the importance of hand washing and good personal hygiene.”

        Parent Joan Nagle was happy that notices went out.

        “Forewarned is forearmed,” said Mrs. Nagle, whose daughter, Jennifer, is in eighth grade at Lakota Ridge.

        On Tuesday, a case of whooping cough was confirmed at Fairfield Middle School. Six cases were confirmed in Finneytown middle and high schools in November and December.

        “Immunizations begin to wear off (by middle school age), making them susceptible,” said Randy Hertzer, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health.

        About 6,000 cases of pertussis were diagnosed in the United States each of the past two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 369 cases in Ohio through Dec. 23, 2000, compared with 317 the year before. Kentucky reported 43 cases in 1999 but 56 in 2000. In Indiana there were 126 cases in 2000, and 43 in 1999.

       



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